High school science class to present results of water study


By JD Kurz

Special to The SUN

Are you a skier, boater, angler, rancher, forester, firefighter, gardener, or a business owner who depends upon any of these industries?

Are U-Haul winters and rafting in July a nostalgic memory?  Did your back survive the winter of 1979 when Wolf Creek received over 600 inches of snow?  Were you here in 2002 when the San Juan River nearly dried up?

Depending upon how long you’ve lived here, you may have developed your own perception of what a “normal” winter and water year looks like.

How does 1979, 2002 and even this year compare to a “normal” year?  Is there a “new normal?”  Can we accurately predict the amount and timing of the spring runoff from annual snowfall?

The Pagosa Springs High School Global Science class set out to explore the above questions.

We began our study with a tour of the Upper San Juan Snowtel site on Wolf Creek Pass.  Jerry Archuleta of the NRCS taught us how to measure snow water equivalence and explained that annual snowfall and streamflow are driving forces in our local economy.

Next, we graphically displayed 77 years of snow and streamflow data from 1936 to 2012.

Then, we created a model to predict the timing and amount of spring runoff from annual snow water equivalence.

When will the San Juan River peak, and what will the peak flow be?

We invite you to support our high school students and view the results of our study in the South Conference Room at the Ross Aragon Community Center at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 28.