GOLDEN, Colo. (AP) - The mountains and lawns along the Front
Range may be green, but reservoir levels remain low and
southwestern Colorado is still suffering, a state task force said
Wednesday.
On top of it, the spring snows and rain that eased the drought
in much of Colorado could contribute to flooding and wildfires this
summer. Hot weather could melt the snow quickly, causing flooding,
and wildfires could be fueled by lusher-than-normal vegetation.
Task force members said water restrictions imposed because of
the drought, in its third year, are still good ideas.
"It's drought, flooding and fire," said Larry Lang, head of
the state flood task force.
A report commissioned by the flood task force says the east
slope of the Rockies from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins could be
hit by flash floods if there's above-average precipitation from
mid-May to mid-June.
Even so, the drought isn't over, water managers, engineers and
forecasters said.
"We had a good year, but we're going to need about three more
to get out," said Dawn Taylor, spokeswoman for the Colorado
Department of Natural Resources.
The statewide snowpack was 87 percent of average May 1, compared
with only 19 percent last May, said Mike Gillespie, chief snow
surveyor for the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Last year, all the snow had melted by this time, Gillespie said.
This year, cool, wet weather has helped maintain the snowpack,
which provides about 80 percent of the state's water in rivers,
streams, lakes and reservoirs.
The snowpack was 123 percent of average in the South Platte
basin and 120 percent in the North Platte on Wednesday. However,
snowpack was 44 percent of average in the Rio Grande River basin
and 47 percent in the Dolores River basin.
The snowpack percentage is measured against a 30-year average.
Levels in most of Colorado's reservoirs also remain
substantially below normal, at about 1.4 million acre feet below
average statewide, Gillespie said. One acre foot is about 326,000
gallons of water, roughly enough to meet a family's needs for a
year.
Denver Water, the state's largest water provider, has waited to
consider whether to ease restrictions on outdoor water use because
of the low levels.
Boulder, though, has switched from mandatory to voluntary water
restrictions, and other cities approved less stringent conservation
plans after a March blizzard that dumped several feet of snow along
the Front Range and in the mountains.
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On the Net:
Drought Monitor: http://www.drought.unl.edu/dm/index.html

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)