Sunday, February 15, 2009

That Groundhog Needs a Better Crystal Ball

We frequently get questions about the lake level. Understandably customers are interested in how much water is in the lake right now and maybe with that information they can approximate how much water will be in the lake later in the spring & summer. Not possible. Unless we have a winter season that is so over-the-top, it's impossible to gauge the lake level months in advance. Even if you thought you could, you would compare this winter to last winter and easily see that the snow pack is lower this year. This would lead you to conclude the lake level would be lower this year. If that were the case, how do you explain that right now the lake is 3 1/2 ft (vertical) higher than the same time last year? That's a huge difference!

The snow pack itself is not the only factor that affects the lake level. After last winter's storms, we hoped for more water in the lake in 2008. However, a warm spring came early and because Topaz Lake is used for irrigation water, the farmers & ranchers started "calling" for water earlier than normal. The runoff to the lake was excellent last spring, but it was literally like "in one river, out the other" and the lake reach just over half full statistically.

So far, this winter has proved to be rather weak, but weather in this month is helping tremendously. I hear through the grapevine (usually better than weathermen) that March maybe a good month, too. It's all good though, because no matter how much water we have in the lake there is plenty for boating, etc. I have noticed though that lake level does affect how most summer vacationers spend their day: If it's high, with little beach area, they spend more time coming and going to their campsites. If it's low, with a lot of beach area, you can bet there is a lot of packing up in the morning and spending the day on the beach.

What is our ideal lake level? I personally like to see the lake fill up every year with a decent runoff from the previous winter's snow pack. Usually late June is when the lake reaches it's highest point and then the water level gradually goes down through the summer. Unfortunately due to too many factors, we don't always get our ideal wish every year.