Monday November 6, 2023


High in the mountains of Colorado, it’s a time of quiet.

The summer leaves have given way to bare branches, but the ski slopes haven’t yet filled with tourists—or snow. Soon, the flakes will begin to pile up, burying alpine valleys and recharging the Colorado River.

The river – which supplies water to tens of millions of people from Wyoming to Mexico – gets most of its water from high-altitude snow, two-thirds of which falls in Colorado. This winter’s forecast is unclear, but however it unfolds will have an outsized impact on the next few years of region-wide water management. Last year’s wet winter may have created more space for long-term negotiations about sharing the Colorado River, but if the region sees low snow totals in the coming months, policy analysts say things could quickly turn in the wrong direction and reintroduce some urgency to water management talks.

Navigating a wetland bramble on the banks of Homestake Creek in Eagle County, Colorado, James Dilzell, director of the nonprofit Eagle River Watershed Council, mused on the regional importance of snow in the Rockies.

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