Happy 2019 Water Year!
Whether a water manager or a water enthusiast, those in the field of water resources welcome October 1 as more than just the start October, but as the start of the new water year. What is a water year you might ask? When dealing with water supply, the period from October 1 – September 30 has been agreed upon to be better suited than the traditional calendar year for capturing patterns of water availability, water demand, and water use common in much of the northern hemisphere. October marks a transitional time, when the growing season is ending and water demand diminishes. In snowmelt dominated regions, snow is starting to accumulate at higher elevations. The mountain snowpack builds up through the fall, winter, and spring. When the snowpack melts, it supplies water used during the summer. Hydrologists and water managers then track water year total precipitation, peak snow accumulation, and streamflow to use in decision making from water year to water year.
For Stream Trackers in regions like Colorado, where snow comes each year, the new water year signals snow and rain. Most streams that are intermittent will have most likely dried up by this time of year through the heat of the summer months. However, both rain and snowmelt can bring flow back to dry channels. Are you curious to see which channels respond to fall and winter rainfall and snow melt? So are we! While these storm events are less predictable, great times to stream track are directly following a large rainfall event or when warm temperatures follow snowfall. We expect most of the visible stream changes to be in the lower elevation foothills and plains. At high elevations, most small streams will be covered with snow throughout the winter. In these areas, the snow that sticks around and accumulates through the winter can contribute to streamflow during spring runoff. Stay warm through the coming months, keep stream tracking, and start getting excited for when the streams once again come alive.