The West despite being blanketed in snow, its water problems are far from over yet

Over a week, nearly 12 feet of snow fell in parts of the central Sierra Nevada. The Brighton ski resort website in Utah put it succinctly: "Best. Season. Ever." Last week, rare blizzard warnings were issued in Southern California.


When summer arrives, the wet winter and heavy snowpack will alleviate drought concerns in some of the West's hardest-hit areas. However, many areas, including the Colorado Basin, have accumulated such significant deficits that a single season will not suffice to alleviate the dire water supply concerns.

Snowpack is the driving force behind many Western water supplies, supplying agriculture, drinking water, and hydropower, as well as some winter recreation.

The strong snow year, according to Robert Glennon, an emeritus professor of water law and policy at the University of Arizona, will only make a minor dent in the Colorado Basin's multistate crisis, possibly lengthening the time before critical thresholds are reached by six months. Almost every region of the West has above-average snowpack. Snowpacks in major watersheds in drought-stricken states like California, Utah, and Nevada are more than 150% above normal for this time of year.

According to seasonal outlooks from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center, some parts of California, Nevada, and Utah could be removed from the drought map this month due to the strong snowpack and a wet forecast for March. Others are likely to see their ratings rise. However, the promising snow season will not be enough to cover up Western states' long-term water problems, which still necessitate urgent, large-scale reductions in use.