MTPR

Montana Snowpack Looking Healthy Across The State

Feb 7, 2018

Montana continues to be the only western state where all basins have snowpack that is at least near-normal for this time of year. On Wednesday, the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Bozeman released its second water supply outlook report of the winter.

The NRCS reports well above normal snowpack conditions for  12 out of the state's 13 major river basins. The one exception is north-central Montana's Saint Mary-Milk River Reservoir, which currently sits at 97 percent of normal. 

Snowpack experts are cautiously optimistic about Montana's spring and summer water supply. High snowfall in January helped pad the existing mountain snowpack.

Lucas Zukiewicz is a Water Supply Specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Bozeman.

"Which has basically left all basins in Montana at normal conditions for this time of year, or well above in some regions of the state," says Zukiewicz.  

Most of northwestern Montana's basins received consistent precipitation last month. Zukiewicz says the same is true for parts of southwest and southcentral Montana. 

"And even pretty close to record for this date in the Upper Yellowstone River Basin. Northwest and southcentral Montana have really seen the brunt of the storms that have come through and have a snowpack that is in really good shape for February first." 

Montana Monthly Precipitation Basin Percentage of Normal - Feb. 1, 2018 (Jan. 1, 2017 - Feb. 1, 2018).
Credit USDA NRCS

Some of northwestern Montana's storms last month dropped rain in the higher elevations, which doesn't worry Zukiewicz. 

"One of the important considerations is that as long as it doesn't stay too warm, putting water into the soil is going to help runoff be more efficient when we get into the springtime. So even though we don't all like rain in January, it's still beneficial to us in the water system," Zukiewicz says. 

However, Zukiewicz cautions that anything can happen between now and spring. 

"But right now we're looking good. As long as this continues we should be in good shape for water supply. East of the divide we have those critical spring months coming up and we're going to wait and see what they're going to yield with regards to precipitation, but we're off to a great start." 

The full Montana Water Supply Outlook Report for Feb. 2018 can be found here.