SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Utah Division of Water Resources reported that strong snowfall this time of the year has contributed to around 95% of the state’s water supply. However, the division said this trend will need to persist before being able to make a dent in the drought.
“People tend to think one good storm will pull us out of drought, but it actually takes many storms over the entire winter to reach average,” said Candice Hasenyager, director of the Division of Water Resources. “With several years of drought behind us, it will likely take several years to recover.”
High temperatures experienced last month have caused the soil moisture to become “below normal” for this time of the year. An effective spring runoff, the division stated, is contingent on a good amount of moisture in the soil. Even so, there isn’t a cause to worry now as the division is not seeing record dry soils Utah experienced during runoff two years ago.
“Currently, the state has received 145% of normal precipitation. This is good news as the state battles drought,” Hasenyager said. “It’s still early in the season, and once the snow melts in spring, we will have a better idea of how much water the state will receive.”
The U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions for Utah currently shows that 92.3% of Utah is in “severe drought” condition, which indicates poor air quality and inadequate water resources for farming.
The division stated that 62 of the 99 measured streams in Utah currently have below-normal water levels, and 37 reservoirs contain almost less than half of the water they can hold.
This report came a week after Gov. Spencer Cox issued a proclamation to close the Great Salt Lake Basin to new water appropriations in the wake of declining water levels. The state engineer will evaluate the conditions of the lake before November 1, 2023, and place a recommendation with state leaders on whether the proclamation should remain in effect.
“Extreme drought, climate change and increased demand continue to threaten the Great Salt Lake,” said Gov. Cox. “We are united in our efforts to protect this critical resource and are taking action to ensure existing flows continue to benefit the lake. When conditions improve, the suspension can be lifted.”
This suspension allowed some of the conservation measures proposed during the 2022 legislative session to be implemented. Lawmakers passed a bill to invest $40 million to restore the Great Salt Lake by developing strategies to deal with a fluctuating lake level. Another bill required the Division of Water Resources to assess and predict the current and future water supply of the Great Salt Lake available for agricultural and economic development.
Thankfully, with the temperatures dropping and storms moving in, the Great Salt Lake water levels are expected to slowly rise and peak with spring runoff.
“By protecting the lake, we help our economy, environment, wildlife and future,” Cox said.
Residents can find tips to save water on Slow The Flow.