By Alan Sorensen
BOZEMAN Milk River snowpack and streamflow are among the lowest in the state this spring, according to figures supplied in a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) press release Thursday.
Streamflow for the Milk River in the Missouri River Basin as of May 1 is anticipated to be 20 to 49 percent of average for the months of May through July. The next lowest was 36 to 70 percent in the Jefferson River.
The Milk River estimation for May through July at this time last year was 85 to 137 percent.
Snowpack in the Bear Paw Mountains that feeds the river is listed as 0 percent of average and 0 percent of last year's snowpack. The next lowest is listed at 47 percent of average and 52 percent of last year in the headwaters of the mainstream of the Missouri. No snow pack in the state exceeds 90 percent of average and only one exceeded 75 percent of last year Tongue River at 85 percent of last year.
NRCS data received from the snow survey network reported snow water contents for May 1 ranged from severely below average to near average. Statewide mountain snow water content was 70 percent of average and 62 percent of last year.
Snowpack west of the Continental Divide was 75 percent of average and 64 percent of last year. East of the Divide, snowpack was 67 percent of average and 58 percent of last year. Snowpack extremes were the highest in the Kootenai River Basin at 89 percent of average and 64 percent of last year. The lowest extremes were in the Musselshell River Basin at 38 percent of average and 48 percent of last year.
"Montana had below to well below average precipitation and above average temperatures during the month of April," Roy Kaiser, NRCS water supply specialist, was quoted as saying in the release. "Without above average precipitation for the next two months, surface water shortages could occur by mid summer, with some areas reaching near or below record low volumes for the period May through July."
NRCS produces snowpack reports monthly from January through May, and include manually-collected snow water content data as well as existing SNOTEL site information, snowpack and precipitation analysis, and a map indicating percentages by river basin.
A complete snowpack report and streamflow forecast are available by the 10th of each month on the NRCS homepage at http://www.mt.nrcs.usda.gov.
Anyone who without access to the Internet is encouraged to contact the local NRCS office for local information or Roy Kaiser at (406) 587-6991.