‘Above average’ start to water year looks promising during drought

Local News
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NORTHERN UTAH (ABC4) – The new water year started Oct. 1 and it’s off to a good start with precipitation levels way above average levels across Utah. Reservoirs across northern Utah are below-average levels. The current cold temperatures and early snow may just make up the perfect storm to help alleviate some of the strain the drought has put on the reservoirs over the last two years.

Across the Wasatch Front, snow glistens from the top of mountain peaks. Some cities got close to a foot of snow this week. These snowstorms hit northern Utah before the leaves even had time to fall. These early winter conditions may have a positive impact in the spring.

“We do need a pretty aggressive, above-average winter to get us starting to recover from these drought conditions,” Weber Basin Water Conservancy District Assistant General Manager John Parry told ABC4. He explained that from now through the spring, water conservancy districts will pay close attention to reservoir elevations as well as “snow volumes and things like that to get an idea of how much volume of runoff we’re going to expect to experience in our drainage, and how much of that runoff we expect to gather into our reservoirs.”

Parry explained runoff season is usually around the first part of June. Early snowstorms, he said, may help alleviate drought conditions because the soil moisture level is pretty high already thanks to some late summer rains and an early freeze will trap that moisture in the ground.

If the weather allows for an early freeze, Parry said, “We’ll see more of that water making it into the streams, and rivers, and reservoirs which will obviously augment our supplies going into next year.”

On October 13, the United States Department of Agriculture released the “UTAH SNOTEL Year-to-Date Precipitation Update Graph.” The graph shows that over the last two weeks, precipitation across Utah has been way above average for the same two-week period. These percentages range from 221% in the Northeastern Uintahs up to 641% in Southwestern Utah.

Although it’s too early to tell how much of an impact these recent snowstorms will have on next summer’s water supply, it’s a good start. “We are going to be heavily reliant on what this winter brings to substantiate irrigation and agricultural uses for next year,” added Parry.

Parry explained that during a normal year, the water district enters the fall and winter seasons with reservoirs sitting around 50% full. He said this year those same reservoirs average around 20%.

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