Utah will need an above-average snow year to end the drought

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – According to the Utah Department of Natural Resources, we will need above-average storms this winter to help refill water reservoirs.

With 95% of Utah’s water supply coming from snowpack, experts look at the amount of water in the snow to gauge the supply. “This past week the snow water equivalent – or how much water is in the snow – was lower than any time in the past 30 years, but this last storm system brought us closer to average,” said Brian
Steed, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources. “We still have a long way to
go and need many snowstorms to reach an average, or preferably above-average, snowpack.”

Here are some facts about this year’s drought:

  • Almost all of the state has been downgraded from “exceptional drought,” while 78% remains in “extreme drought.”
  • Statewide, the snow water equivalent is 2.8 inches, which is 78% of the of the average for this time of year, and 18% of the average peak, which usually happens around the beginning of April.
  • 39 of Utah’s largest reservoirs are below 55% capacity, while last year they were at about 62% capacity.
  • Soil moisture is, in fact, 7% above average for this time of year. Wet soils are critical as the state begins to accumulate its snowpack.
  • Of the 84 measured streams, 43 are flowing below normal. (This number went down because many streams and gauges ice over in the winter.)

According to the DNR, the storms this past week put this year back in the range of previous years, but we’ll still need another 13 inches to reach the typical peak of almost 16 inches per year. They emphasize that since the start of the year was not so great, we will still need an above-average water year.

The DNR also reports that temperatures have been almost 5 degrees above average for the last 30 days. This means that snow melts faster and consequently increases the air and land’s need for water.

The Great Salt Lake’s elevation is on the rise at 4190.6 feet, which is still almost 10 inches below the historic record low of 4191.4 feet, as reported by the DNR. Levels are expected to rise now that irrigation season is over and winter storms have begun.

Keep your fingers crossed for more snow this winter season!

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