SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Utah has seemingly received an abundance of moisture this year thanks to monsoons and tropical impacts from Hurricane Hilary in mid-August.
Water officials in the Beehive state say the storms have been a welcome relief to water demand across the state but it has fallen short of providing a “significant boost” to reservoirs statewide.
Monsoonal moisture is a critical part of Utah’s water cycle. The intense, short-term rainfall can provide an immediate increase in the inflow of water into reservoirs through runoffs from rivers and streams. The storms can also improve water quality by diluting pollutants in reservoirs and reducing the build-up of sediments. Perhaps most importantly, however, monsoon season reduces irrigation demand.
According to the Utah Division of Water Resources, about 60% of outdoor water use is residential – homeowners watering their lawns. As homeowners turn off their sprinklers during rain storms, it can result in big water savings for Utah’s reservoirs.
The division said reservoir storage statewide is at 77%, which is a considerable improvement from last year’s 45% and even above the normal storage level of 57%. The Great Salt Lake rose about 5.5 feet from its historic low in November and salinity levels have returned to favorable levels, reports the division.
However, since both peaked in mid-June and mid-July, both reservoirs and the lake have seen declining levels. Reservoirs have fallen 8% since its peak due to evaporative demand and water use and the lake is expected to steadily decline until October, when cooler temperatures arrive with an increase in precipitation.
“Monsoonal moisture may not have been a silver bullet for our reservoirs, but it has been a lifeline in reducing demand,” Division of Water Resources Director Candice Hasenyager. “It reminds us that nature plays an important role in our quest for resiliency and reducing demand is the one lever we have to pull to secure our water future.”
Hasenyager said it’s important for everyone to be mindful of their irrigation practices. Now is the time to start dialing back watering lawns and paying close attention to how much water is used. Hasenyager said the conservation of water is still a top priority in order to ensure responsible water usage.
Residents and businesses looking to “slow the flow” and help conserve water can find more information through various programs offered by the Department of Natural Resources. Farmers are encouraged to check out the Agricultural Optimization Program while residents are encouraged to visit SlowtheFlow.org.