North Platte River Basin Snow Melt Runoff Update for 2020

Snowpack on the Snowy Mountain Range that feeds the North Plate River system
Figure 1. Snowpack on the Snowy Mountain Range that feeds the North Plate River system. The US Bureau of Reclamation monitors snowpack to estimate the amount of water in the North Platte Basin likely to be available this growing season. (Photo by Gary Stone)

North Platte River Basin Snow Melt Runoff Update for 2020

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Wyoming Area Office has released their forecast for spring snow melt runoff for the North Platte River drainage. The forecast calls for above average snow melt runoff.

The total runoff April through July in the North Platte River Basin is expected to be 134% of the 30-year average or 1,278,000 acre-feet.

The forecast is good news for more than 20 irrigation districts in the North Platte River Valley of western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming, who rely on surface water from the North Platte drainage to irrigate more than 300,000 acres of crops. Much of that irrigation water is stored in the system of main-stem reservoirs in Wyoming, Seminoe, Kortes, Pathfinder, Alcova, Grey Reef, Glendo and Guernsey. The system also provides power generation, flood control and recreation.

Current snowpack on the sub-basin drainages of the North Platte River drainage

  • Upper Platte basin is at 106% of normal
  • Sweetwater basin is 82% of normal
  • Lower Platte basin is 120% of normal
  • Laramie River basin is at 109% of normal

The total conservation storage capacity of the North Platte Reservoir System reservoirs is approximately 2,815,800 acre-feet. As of March 31, 2020, the combined storage water content in the North Platte Reservoirs was 2,301,500 acre-feet, which is 138% of the 30-year average. The major reservoir capacities for storage on upper North Platte River system are Seminoe – 1,017,273 acre-feet, Pathfinder – 1,700,00 acre-feet, and Glendo – 492,022 acre-feet.

US Bureau of Reclamation TEACUP model
Figure 2. US Bureau of Reclamation TEACUP model showing the North Platte River water operations, river flows, and reservoir levels as of 04-09-2020. (Source: US Bureau of Reclamation)
Average snow water equivalent and snow water equivalent for 2019 and so far in 2020
Figure 3. Average snow water equivalent and snow water equivalent for 2019 (red) and so far in 2020 (green) above Seminoe Reservoir as of 04-10-2020. (Source: US Bureau of Reclamation)
Average snow water equivalent and snow water equivalent for 2019 and so far in 2020
Figure 4. Average snow water equivalent and snow water equivalent for 2019 (red) and so far in 2020 (green) above Glendo Reservoir as of 04-10-2020. (Source: US Bureau of Reclamation)

For more information on the North Platte River Surface Irrigation Projects and Power Generation, view the slideshare presentation.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Wyoming Area office water operations information can be found at their website.