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Snow runoff brings flooding concerns along with much needed water

Towns across Colorado are already warning residents to prepare for flooding as the snowpack melts

GREELEY, Colo. — Miles away from a nearly empty reservoir, the mountains above Lake Loveland predict what’s coming soon.

People in the City of Greeley rely on Lake Loveland for water. It’s also crucial for farms and agriculture across northern Colorado. And right now, it’s 70% empty.

"We’re in dire need of snowpack to replenish those reservoirs," said Sean Chambers, the director of water and sewer utilities for Greeley. "We’re expecting in the months ahead that’s going to come down and refill reservoirs that were depleted by drought in a pretty hot summer last year."

Every year, we suck water out of places like Loveland. This year, the water that fills it back up could help us survive the next drought.   

The snowpack graphs Chambers looks at show the reservoirs won’t stay empty for long.

"We’re about 115% above average here on the front range and the South Platte Basin. That puts us about 135% of where we were last year," said Chambers. 

So, what do all those numbers actually mean? There are years where Lake Loveland doesn’t even fill up after the snow melt. This year, Chambers is focused on making the most of the water in a year we actually we have it.

"We expect with this snow pack that we will refill the reservoir," said Chambers. "Replenishing our storage is really critical for being in a resilient position to survive the next drought cycle."

For years, Colorado has struggled with drought. That makes all that snow in the mountains now that much more important.

In Delta County, commissioner Don Suppes is warning his towns to begin preparing for flooding. If the snow melts too quickly, he says they could be in big trouble.

"We absolutely need the water, we just are really worried about how fast it comes off the mountain," said Suppes. "We are very concerned about the amount of water that’s going to be coming down our rivers and streams in the next month and a half."

"In response to anticipated flooding, the county is building a plan for access to temporary bridges, working with the railroad to keep the railroad bridges and tracks clear, and preparing contingency plans if flood waters impact roads and bridges," a press release put out by Delta County said. "Plans also include developing monitoring teams to perform regular inspections of critical bridges across the county and establishing a coordinated incident management response team and staff for the County Emergency Operations Center if a more significant response is needed."

Residents can also apply to get free sand bags here.

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