MTPR

Natural Resources Conservation Service

Current snow water equivalent, basin percentage of normal, June 1, 2019.
NRCS Montana Snow Survey Staff / USDA

Montana’s latest water supply outlook forecast is in and paints a fairly encouraging picture. 

The Bozeman-based Natural Resources Conservation Service says the water supply in most Montana basins is in pretty good shape as we head into the hot summer months.

Year-to-date precipitation basin percentage of normal.
Natural Resources Conservation Service

Below-normal precipitation last month combined with warmer seasonal temperatures nibbled around the edges of Montana’s snowpack, but it could have been a lot worse.

It turns out that February’s bitter cold and record snowfall had an important upside. It bought Montana’s snowpack a little extra time during what turned out to be a very dry March.

Sub-basin snow water equivalent - March 1, 2019.
NRCS Montana Snow Survey Staff

February bucked all expectations of warmer-than-average temperatures and below normal snowfall.

“One of the things that is unique about this job is things can turn around pretty quickly, so you end up eating crow more often than you’d like,” says Lucas Zukiewicz, a water supply specialist with the Bozeman-based Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Sub-basin snow water equivalent - Feb. 1, 2019.
Natural Resources Conservation Service

January didn’t start out great for Montana’s snowpack. The Bozeman-based Natural Resources Conservation Service says the first half of last month was dry across much of the state.

But NRCS Water Supply Specialist, Lucas Zukiewicz, says things picked up with late-January storms.

Kate Vandemoer presents on the “People’s Compact,” a proposed alternative to the CSKT Water Compact in Kalispell on Dec. 10, 2018.
Nicky Ouellet / MTPR

Supporters of an alternative proposal to settle water rights claims on and around the Flathead Reservation have released a framework for what they would like to see in federal legislation. Meanwhile, their proposal is drawing condemnation and curiosity across the state.

Flooding in Missoula along the north end of Tower Street, May 7, 2018.
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio

This year’s record snowpack is rapidly melting, and it started earlier than normal.

Montana Sub-Basin Snow-Water Equivalent, Feb. 1, 2018.
USDA NRCS

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.

Western Montana sub-basin snow water equivalent.
USDA NRCS

Most of Montana’s high elevation snowpack is looking good. Montana entered April on relatively steady footing when it comes to our snowpack levels. The latest water supply outlook from the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Bozeman notes new snowfall bolstered snowpack during March’s first two weeks.

Montana Sub-basin Snow-Water Equivalent, March 01, 2017.
USDA NRCS

February isn't usually Montana’s biggest snow month, but this year proved to be a major exception. Substantial snow fell across the state during February's first two weeks; especially in Montana's northern and southern basins.

Lucas Zukiewicz of the Natural Resources and Conservation Service says it was a badly needed shot-in-the-arm after January's anemic snow totals:

Montana's Current Water Supply and Moisture Conditions by County
Montana DNRC

Montana’s fire season has been ‘pretty benign’ so far and it’s not expected to get much worse. That’s how Harold Gemmell characterized it today to the Governor’s Drought and Water Supply Advisory Committee.

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