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Water in the News

2024 Climate Change Report by Colorado State University

San Juan Water Conservancy District follows relevant scientific studies and considers seriously data-driven reports, especially those generated in Colorado. SJWCD Directors use fact-based information to plan for the future of water in the Upper San Juan River drainage and Archuleta County.

Link here to read the Executive Summary of the most recent CSU Climate Change report. 2024 Climate Assessment Report Executive Summary

Measuring SWE with Pagosa Weather

Pagosa Weather organizes a small army of local citizen scientists who measure and report Snow Water Equivalents, SWE. Volunteers are trained in how to measure accumulated snow. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), SWE means the depth of water that would cover the ground if the snow cover was in a liquid state.

Methods of measuring snow here in San Juan Water Conservancy District include Snowtography at Jackson Mountain, Snow Telemetry (SnoTel) at Wolf Creek Pass, and Pagosa Weather’s measuring SWE all over Archuleta County.

Arleen and Shawn Prochazka currently lead Pagosa Weather, a nonprofit organized in 2016. They are NWS Weather Ready Nation Ambassadors, Pagosans who are United States Air Force veterans and nationally recognized meteorologists. Arleen leads the citizen scientists and the Pagosa Weather Board of Directors. Volunteers are trained in how to be consistent and accurate in measuring snow depth and also in providing valuable rain, hail, and snow data to CoCoRaHS. Pagosa Weather is the official coordinator of the Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow Network, or CoCoRaHS.

The Pagosa Weather website contains a plethora of information, all related to water in the San Juan Water Conservancy District. Everything from forecasts to monthly precipitation summaries to current webcams can be found at www.pagosaweather.org. Contact them to become a citizen scientist providing relevant data to SJWCD’s mission.

New Snow Science Site Comes to SJWCD

San Juan Headwaters Forest Health Partnership (SJHFHP) and Mountain Studies Institute (MSI) installed new snowtography measurement equipment on Jackson Mountain in San Juan Water Conservancy District. Snow data will be collected this winter. Alex Handloff, the newly hired coordinator for San Juan Headwaters Forest Health Partnership, described the project to San Juan Water Conservancy District at its Special Meeting on November 16, 2023.

According to Handloff, there’s an emerging snowtography network happening in Colorado and across the West. Snowtography will inform decisions on how to manage forests and answer questions such as how the amount and location of trees impacts snow accumulation, retention, and ablation (melting/sublimating). With a changing climate, measuring and modeling the amount of snow we receive can support decisions to ensure water resources and ecosystem health, and in turn, our health. Eventually, data gleaned from snowtography can help determine how we approach forest health, wildfire mitigation, and riparian restoration. Snow provides between 75 and 90 percent of our water supply, says Handloff.

Dr. Jake Kurzwell, Mountain Studies Institute, is quoted in a recent article by Handloff published in the Pagosa Springs Sun: “Snowtography is an approachable method to quantify how forest structure and forest management impacts snow accululation, retention, and subse1quent water yields.”

Other Snowtography sites in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado include Chicken Creek, Horse Creek, Lizard Head, and Red Mountain.

In addition to Snowtography, SJHFHP and MSI are involved in bringing two related scientific pursuits to Archuleta County: Adaptive Silvaculture for Climate Change and Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Projects.

Connect here to learn more: https://sanjuanheadwaters.org/forest-health-protection/snowtography/. Contact alex@mountainstudies.org to learn more and volunteer.

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