Millions of Americans enjoy snow covered landscapes and their beauty. When you look beyond its aesthetic and recreational appeal you will find that snow also plays a vital role in our lives as a primary source of the water supply in the western United States. Increasing and conflicting demands for water in the West have heightened public awareness and a need for sound management decisions that concern water. The high mountain ranges hold a vast snowpack that provides 50 to 80 percent of the year's water supply to the West and also plays a part in the overall recharge of the Republican River Basin (NRCS, 2010).
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) operates and maintains an automated system to collect snowpack and related climatic data in the western United States and Alaska. SNOwpack TELemetry (SNOTEL) operates over 660 remote high elevation sites across the western United States to measure snowpack and forecast the water supply. SNOTEL provides a reliable and cost-effective means of collecting snowpack data needed to produce water supply forecasts and support the resource management activities of NRCS and others, including irrigators (NRCS, 2010).
The National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center provides remotely-sensed and modeled hydrology products for the conterminous United States and Alaska. It also contains a variety of hydrology products including snow depth, snow precipitation, snow melt, non-snow precipitation and other valuable snow related information.
Natural Resources Conservation Service. (n.d.). SNOTEL and Snow Survey & Water Supply Forecasting. Retrieved from http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/snotel/SNOTEL-brochure.pdf