Vast Variations Within The Northwest Region, But Winter Still Reigns

By Derf Soller, Agronomist
February 4, 2010

Although the Pacific Northwest recently experienced a rare phenomenon with the cold snap that damaged many Poa annua greens, other parts of the Green Section Northwest Region have had a milder go at things. But, it is still winter, and, as much as I hate to say it, we still need some more!

Crisscrossing the state of Colorado last week took me over a few high mountain passes. Just seeing the lack of significant snow along the roadways verifies the recent news reports of the weak current snowpack conditions. High elevation golf courses along the Continental Divide in Colorado feel lucky to have snow cover at the present time. Colorado has the highest average U.S. state elevation at 6800 feet above sea level. It is supposed to snow here, and we not only need it to snow, but we want it to snow, too.

According to the latest report from the Colorado River Water Conservation District in Glenwood Springs, the Colorado snowpack is currently just ahead of the 2002 drought year. This is not good news for the region or for towns and cities downstream as far as the Gulf of California that annually relies on a healthy snow fall in the mountains. For those who can’t remember back that far, 2002 was the worst year on record for snow depths in the Colorado River Basin. The biggest problem with the lack of substantial snowfall is that the snowpack melts very rapidly. In 2002, that resulted in all of the snow being gone by June. Facilities that did not have adequate water storage on property had a tough time having enough water to use. Even facilities with Senior or historic water rights found themselves out of luck. It makes little difference what your water decree deed reads if there just isn’t water in the river or irrigation ditches.

State water officials are presently worried about another record drought year in the making. The Colorado River Compact of 1922 governs all allocations of the Colorado River waters to seven states: Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Nevada, as well as the Republic of Mexico. The Compact calls for an annual release of 8.23 million acre feet of water for the seven states and another 1.5 million acre feet for Mexico. (one acre foot of water = 325,851 gallons.) For the seven states, that amounts to 2,681,753,730,000 gallons of water. (Yes, that is 2.68 trillion gallons for those without your calculators)

There is still hope! The good news is that, typically, the months of March and April produce the most snowfall in the higher elevations, so there is still a chance that the current levels will increase. But, the averages are currently way behind where they should be, so let’s all do our collective snow dance, not just for the skiers and snow boarders at the mountain resorts, but also for the rest of us.

The Golf Industry Show is rapidly approaching and, hopefully, many of you are headed to a warm San Diego. Although not all of us on the USGA Green Section staff will attend this year’s conference (we are watching budgets just like everyone these days), please make a point to stop by the USGA booth on the trade show floor on Wednesday and Thursday. Also, you won’t want to miss the USGA Green Section Education Session on Friday February 12th at 9:30 am.

The Green Section Northwest Region is ready and available to make course visits in 2010. Turf Advisory Service information packets for this season have just been put in the mail, so watch for one coming your way soon. Remember to take advantage of the early payment option and save $500 if you register and pay your invoice by mid- May. As always, you may schedule a visit any time of the year, but take advantage of the early sign-up. Contact Larry Gilhuly, director, (lgilhuly@usga.org) or Derf Soller, agronomist (dsoller@usga.org) for more information or to schedule a visit. Wendy Schwertfeger, administrative assistant, also may be reached for information at: 208.732.0280 or wendys@usga.org.

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