UTAH (ABC4) – As Utah continues experiencing an unprecedented drought, state officials are constantly hoping Mother Nature will replenish Utah’s water levels.
With recent rainfall and snow covering parts of Utah, how much did the weather activity help snowpack levels?
“Our lands are tinder dry, and with May and June forecasted to be hotter and drier than previous years, we are also gearing up for a challenging wildfire season,” said Brian Steed, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “We need people to continue to conserve to stretch our limited water supply and exercise good Fire Sense to reduce the risk of human-caused wildfires.”
The Utah Division of Water Resources (DNR) says currently, 99% of Utah is currently experiencing both extreme and severe drought. Utah’s reservoir levels are 10% lower than it was during the same time last year.
Water officials say so far, 95% of Utah’s water supply comes from snowpack. Above-average storms are still needed to replenish reservoirs. At this point, officials say there is a “low chance of these below-normal snow levels refilling Utah’s reservoirs.”
Right now officials say, the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District has received very little water storage during the past two years and is unfortunately expected to receive very little again this year.
“To mitigate the effects of the drought on their storage reservoirs, they have reduced the amount of water they intend to deliver to contract holders this year,” says DNR. “They are also purchasing 5,000 acre-feet of Echo shares from users on the Provo River and about 14,000 acre-feet from Deer Creek water users. The delivery of this water into Weber Basin’s reservoirs will be accomplished by modifying the operation of the Weber-Provo Canal.”
The Great Salt Lake could potentially face a new historic low — even though its current elevation is sitting at 4191.1, officials say the lake typically drops about two feet every summer.
“Levels have remained nearly unchanged for the last month. Inflow is needed to overcome the typical seasonal summer drop of about 2.3 feet. So far the lake has risen about 1 foot and has likely peaked. With the seasonal summer drop of about 2.3 feet, the lake is likely to hit a new historic low this summer.”
The dire drought covering Utah has even impacted deer survival rates, with the Utah Wildlife Board now decreasing the number of general-season deer hunting permits issued. 950 less permits were issued this year compared to the previous year.
Ongoing drought has significantly impacted deer survival rates, so the Utah Wildlife Board voted to decrease the number of general-season deer permits issued. A total of 73,075 general-season deer hunting permits will be issued, a 950-permit decrease from the previous year. While it is antlerless (doe) deer permits, not buck permits, that impact deer population numbers, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources recommended a decrease for both types of permits for the 2022 hunting seasons.
Snowpack levels are currently at 75% of the median, peaking at around 12 inches when normally the typical median is 16 inches.
Twenty-two of Utah’s largest 45 reservoirs are below 55% of their available capacity. Utah’s statewide storage is at 60% of capacity, about seven percent less than last year at the same time.
Of the 96 measured streams, 56 streams are flowing below normal despite spring runoff. Five streams are flowing at record low conditions.
With dry summer months ahead, wildfire season remains an elevated risk to Utah.
“The majority of human-caused wildfires this year have been due to agricultural burning as individuals prepare their canals and property for irrigation,” officials say.
Experts say the fire potential may increase to above normal during mid to late May and through June over higher elevations throughout central and southern Utah.
“By July, the higher terrain of the Sierra Front into northern Utah will likely see above-normal fire potential due to the drought once the snow melts and fuels cure,” says DNR. “The monsoon is expected to be fairly robust and on time with fire potential decreasing over the southern half of the Great Basin by July.”
To see the full Utah drought report, click here.