Below-average snowmelt setting up region for continued drought

Published: Apr. 14, 2021 at 4:19 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

COLCHESTER, Vt. (WCAX) - Lake Champlain is two feet below what it normally is this time of year. The National Weather Service says the lake is at 96-feet and the average for April 14th is 98-feet -- a key indicator of continued abnormally dry and drought-like conditions around much of the region.

At Bay Harbor Marina in Colchester, crews are readying boats for the busy season. “It happens fairly quick. We have a good crew here,” said the marina’s John Lane. But the lake level is starting two feet below normal, a potential problem for boaters if it continues into the summer. “If we don’t get any rain at all then we will be hurting in the fall when we haul these guys out,” Lane said. He says they prepped for this type of situation last year. “We dredged three to four feet to accommodate the low water levels that we seem to be having year after year.”

And they’re not the only business feeling water woes. “We have had less than what we needed for rain to recharge the water supplies,” said Jeffrey Williams with Spafford & Sons Water Wells. He says that having a dry season is a part of nature, but this has extended from last fall. “It’s been incredible to try to manage people who are really, really anxious and don’t have any water, and the backlog has already started this year.”

So how did we get here? The National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Evenson says it starts with snowmelt. “We have below-normal snowpack across the Green Mountains right now. Mt Mansfield only has 13 inches of snow, which typically they would have up to 50 inches,” he said. “Even in the smaller rivers and streams, there is not a lot of water that’s getting into Lake Champlain to bring those levels back up.”

Evenson says to help get things back to normal, the region will need some rain to compensate for the low snowmelt. “The ability to be able to replenish that water level back to normal is just going to get harder and harder as the summer goes on,” he said. April showers bring May flowers, but it would also bring -- they would also bring the Lake Champlain levels up back to normal.”

As for the marina, they say they have sold their slips for the year and hope to be putting boats in the water in the next few days.


Lake Champlain may be low right now, but ten years ago this week in 2011, water levels crept above flood stage and kept climbing to record heights. The lake was over flood stage for 66 days between mid-April and mid-June, reaching a peak of 103 feet -- seven feet higher than it is now. Lakefront camps and businesses were battered or washed away leaving millions of dollars in damage.

Copyright 2021 WCAX. All rights reserved.