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Boise River Basin needs snow in March to get close to the average snowpack

Posted at 1:52 PM, Mar 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-02 15:52:54-05

BOISE, Idaho — We joined water hydrologists from the NRCS Idaho Snow Survey on their monthly trek to the top of Mores Creek Summit to measure the snowpack.

Danny Tappa has taken over this responsibility from Ron Abramovich as data collected at this site goes back to the 1930s and also includes the infamous Morley Nelson who managed the snow survey program in the 50s.

"There is a really rich tradition and history here, "said Tappa. "Being part of the program and being able to inform folks what to expect in terms of the water supply because the snowpack truly is the lifeblood of the state to be able to assist in that is very rewarding."

But this month's measurements did not bring good news Tappa discovered the snow water equivalent at this Snotel sight is at 79 percent for March 1.

After a strong start in December, mother nature has not cooperated in January and February was even worse.

"We’ve only picked up 1.8 inches of new water content at this location and that is much below normal," said Tapp. "To put that into context a couple of years ago we picked up 21.1 inches of water content in a month which was incredibly high, but 1.8 inches for the month of February is the lowest we’ve seen since 2005."

That means with roughly one month remaining to collect snow March needs to come in like a lion and go out like a lion if the Boise Basin is going to get anywhere close to normal.

"That’s the ultimate question right now what is going to happen in March?" said Tappa. "That’s going to make or break the seasonal snowpack, typically across Idaho in general terms April is when we see the maximum snowpack."

Because of last year's drought, water managers will not be able to rely on storage in our reservoirs and the ramifications for farmers and people who rely on water in the summer could be severe if we don't get more snow and have a wet spring.

"Major ramifications are water shortages," said Tappa. "If we were to see the spring this year that we got last year we will see even more water shortages and we had water shortages last year."

The NRCS Snow Survey team also gets automated data from the Snotel sight at Mores Creek Summit, but it is also a popular place for people to recreate.

Tappa told us the public needs to stay away from the equipment, people can ski or snowshoe in the area but he asks people to avoid the shack and the equipment that helps water managers know the conditions when the team isn't up there manually collecting the data.

"When people ski over and under our equipment they are disrupting some of our snow measurement," said Tappa. "That can actually have some big ramifications for the way water is managed in the entire Boise system."

The Snotel sight for people to avoid