OGDEN, Utah (ABC4) — You may have noticed rivers running higher than usual. In many cases, water is being purposefully released from reservoirs and is adding to the high-water levels. This is done to make room in the reservoirs for record-breaking volumes of runoff from the snowpack, serving as a buffer to mitigate flooding during peak runoff season.
“This is crazy!” said Layton resident Demarkus Poole. “This is just unbelievable!”
Poole, and his wife, took a trip up Ogden Canyon to see just how high the river was running. Like many people living in northern Utah, they were stunned by the sheer volume of water.
“We don’t live in an area that’s going to flood, but we’re concerned for other people,” Poole said. “It’s going to be bad for them.”
Flooding is also a concern for the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, the regional water supplier within the Ogden and Weber River drainages.
“It’s a balance of how much is going to be coming in and how much we can release and do it responsibly,” said Assistant General Manager Jon Parry.
Parry explained that the water district is releasing water from reservoirs along the Ogden and Weber River systems to prepare for a record-breaking runoff season, which typically peaks in June.
“What we’re doing is essentially making space in those reservoirs allowing us to act as a buffer when that water starts to come down,” added Parry.
It may come as no surprise that a record-breaking snowpack is going to lead to the runoff being just as substantial. In fact, Parry said all the models the water district uses make it look like the district will see its wettest spring on record.
The runoff volume for the reservoirs managed by the water district is projected to be between two and three times more than what each reservoir can hold. Pineview Reservoir, in Weber County, will see the most water, with three times its max capacity.
For that reason, the water district has been releasing water from the reservoirs for about a month.
“Once those reservoirs are full, it’s just run of the river. We can’t do anything to buffer it,” emphasized Parry.
While water levels are high and may cause concern to those who see the rivers, Parry says that the river water levels are at safe channel capacity. Meaning, current levels are lower than levels that would cause more widespread flooding.
“Once the water starts coming in, it gives us a week or two of buffer,” Parry said. “Right? That way we can continue to control the releases out of the reservoir, and hopefully time it correctly with mother nature and everybody else to make sure that we fill those right at the end of the runoff and minimize, to the degree possible, any potential flooding downstream of those reservoirs.”
For more detailed information on the current flow (via flow gauges) from WBWCD’s reservoirs and the rivers affected by those reservoirs, click here.