We have all heard about the drought that Utah still faces, but we have seen the wet weather bring us that much needed water. Is that not enough to break the drought? Not necessarily.
Drought can be looked at in a few different ways. The one we think about the most is meteorological drought, where there is a lack of precipitation for a long stretch of time. Then, there is agricultural drought which causes plant yields to suffer. But the one we are now facing in Utah is hydrological drought. This type of drought deals with our water sources like reservoirs, lakes, and rivers.
“We’re looking sort of at our storage, because we use so much of our storage and last year we did use a lot of it because we didn’t get any,” says Laura Haskell, Drought Coordinator with the Department of Water Resources. “And so we just had to rely on that storage and now it’s down and we want to build that up again.”
Building up our reservoir storage depends on our snowpack and that has not been the most reliable this winter. While we did have those wet periods, we also had very dry periods which has made it difficult to build our snowpack to a level we would like.
“Typically, we would see a steady increase in our snowpack and to see these rollercoasters we do need to see that like big increase at certain times so that we can make up for those dry periods just to get it to normal,” explains Haskell. “And then we’re also recovering from last year, where our reservoirs are about 10 percent lower than we would normally see them.”
The below-average snowpack is not looking the best when we have to replenish our reservoirs and water storage systems but the runoff that we are expecting is in much better shape.
“Last year, we were record dry in our soils and so as the snow melted it just soaked right into the ground and didn’t make it into our streams. And this year our soil moisture is a lot higher so the snowpack that we do have will make it to our reservoirs,” says Haskell.
This will at least help our reservoirs see some replenishment but not to the levels we need them to be at. Conserving water will still be important as we head into the summer months.