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Cooperative Snow Survey Program

The beauty of snow is fascinating, and millions of Americans enjoy the snow-covered landscape as a playground. But beyond its esthetic and recreational appeal, snow plays a vital role in our lives as a primary source of the water supply in the Western United States.

[image showing a man measuring the snowpack]

Increasing and often conflicting demands for water in the West have heightened public awareness of the need for sound management decisions concerning water. Although the West's high mountain ranges hold a vast snowpack that provides 50 to 80 percent of the year's water supply, nature cannot be relied upon to provide an uninterrupted, dependable supply of meltwater to meet all the downstream requirements. To moderate this variability, reservoirs and canals have been built to serve the growing needs of agriculture, industry, and communities. But successful water management begins with an adequate knowledge of the primary source of water in the west: snow.

Pie Chart Depicting Data Collected by Members of the Cooperative Snow Survey Prgram

Obtaining accurate and timely information on the extent and water content of the mountain snowpack requires specially trained people and unique equipment. The Federal, State, and private cooperative snow survey program directed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has met those needs since the mid-1930's and continues to evolve in response to increasing demands of water users. With a computerized data collection network and forecast system, the program also fills many other requirements for hydrological and climatological data useful in natural resources management and research.


Snow course data and Basin snowpack summary - April, 1997

BOULDER MTN PILLOW 7950 4/01/97 --- 27.1 22.6 20.6
CHESSMAN RESERVOIR 6200 3/24/97 11 3.3 1.7 3.9
FROHNER MDWS PILLOW 6480 4/01/97 --- 9.6 8.8 8.7
NEVADA CREEK PILLOW 6480 4/01/97 --- 21.2 16.8 13.4
ROCKER PEAK PILLOW 8000 4/01/97 --- 18.0 16.2 15.3
STEMPLE PASS 6600 3/25/97 44 13.8 8.2 10.6
TEN MILE LOWER 6600 3/24/97 30 8.7 5.7 7.8
TEN MILE MIDDLE 6800 3/24/97 46 13.8 11.5 12.2
TIZER BASIN PILLOW 6840 4/01/97 --- 11.8 10.7 12.0
Basin Totals 121% 123%
Number Courses 10 10
  (SWE,IN= 147.7 121.9)  
  (SWE,IN= 147.7 119.8)  

[graph representing the Snow Water Averages in the Missoury Mainstem River Basin]

Average Mountain Snowpack as of April 1, 1997 in the Western US

 [article from the Oregonian