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When In Doubt, Compare To Drought

When in Doubt, Compare to Drought

March 3, 2016 

Wondering how this unusual winter weather has effected Broadwater County streams, rivers, creeks, & canals? Is it possible that extreme floods or droughts will sneak their way into Broadwater County?

  • What are the predictions for Broadwater County stream flows?
  • Recent snowpack Data vs. Drought Snowpack Data
  • Are we going to have normal stream flows this summer?

Recent data from the SnoTel sites located at Boulder Mountain and Tizer Basin predict no major threats to county streamflow forecasting just yet, but one could argue that you should always be prepared. The data collected at SnoTel sites help predict water supply forecasts for irrigation and recreation seasons.

Snow Water Equivalencies (SWE) are a major indicator of water supply forecasts. SWEs are not dependent on how much snow we received, but rather how much water is contained within that snow.

So, the amount of snow that accumulates on the mountains each year should not sway your opinion on the upcoming season’s stream flows.

Comparing data from the tables provided, the numbers show us that Mother Nature is not always as she seems.

*In 2008, Broadwater County experienced a severe drought threat despite the fact that SnoTel stations recorded nearly double the amount of snow we currently have. This year, we may not Fly Fisherhave received as much snow in depth, but the snow we have accumulated has normal SWE tendencies.

Seems complicated right? Don’t worry, it is not as complicated as it sounds. SWE’s are not dependent on how much snow we received, but rather how much water is contained within that snow.

So even though we had more snow accumulate on the mountains during the drought year, the snow wasn’t as heavy, and did not contain as much water.

There are so many factors that help predict stream flows. Vegetation, rain during the snow melt, soil moisture, and temperature are just some of the factors influencing the streams.

So when you find yourself worrying about the lack of precipitation we’ve had this winter, don’t take it too seriously.

Although these past few weeks have been very dry, we still have hope for a normal water supply this upcoming irrigation season.

Boulder Mountain snowpack remains normal whereas Tizer Basin is trailing slightly below normal (Based on the normal range of 90-109% from the USDA/NRCS National Water and Climate Center).

Last year, both Tizer and Boulder snowpack remained normal throughout all of March. The tables below show that the lack of precipitation has negatively affected Tizer Basin, but it is nothing to fret about just yet.

The water supply forecast for the Missouri Headwaters near Toston predicts that we will receive normal stream flows from April to July.

Boulder Mountain Remains Normal



Tizer Basin Slightly Below Normal



Beginning in April, The District will be releasing weekly stream flow reports, as well as temperature and precipitation data, for specific areas in Broadwater County. 

Let’s continue being strong stewards of the land and more drought resilient as we raise our crops, provide food for others, tend to our critters, garden, play, and responsibly use these amazing natural resources.

For more information on snowpack, stream flow, and drought resiliency contact Katie Mumford at the Broadwater Conservation District in Townsend.   or   406-266-3146 x102

All of the information above can be accessed at



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