Expert examines impact of storms on water supply, urges Utahns to turn off automated sprinklers

Posted at 4:19 PM, Apr 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-16 18:19:50-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- More than 3 feet of snow fell in the mountains over Utah during the past two days, and while that seems like a significant amount—when it melts it won’t do much to help with Utah’s water shortage.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service call this most recent storm an overachiever, meaning it came in a little stronger and lasted a little longer than they anticipated, and, overall, that's good news for Utah’s water supply.

Wednesday's reminder of winter was definitely a hassle for many folks along the Wasatch Front, especially those involved in traffic jams or accidents. But for those who work in the weather forecasting business, it was a welcome event.

"It put down a lot more water and a lot more snow than we anticipated,” Michael Seaman of the National Weather Service said. “The storm system basically slowed down as it moved through the region."

Skiers and snowboarders were also thrilled about the storm, as resorts in the Cottonwood Canyons in particular got several feet of fresh powder.

But forecasters said all of that rain and snow will only amount to less than 3 inches of actual water.

"Unfortunately, in the grand scheme of things, it's basically just a drop in the bucket compared to what we need to get back to normal,” Seaman said. “We would need series of these storms, maybe 10 or so over the next couple of weeks--and that's just not in the cards."

Seaman said he hopes the storm means people will stop watering lawns for a while. Thursday morning, FOX 13 News spotted several automated sprinkler systems watering snow around downtown Salt Lake City.

"We put enough water down from this [last storm], that we should be fine here for a while,” he said. “Most grasses will be OK as we get into the spring months. We'll have a little bit of rain coming in here on and off for a couple of weeks. Not enough to help the water supply, but hopefully enough to keep the grass green and keeping people from having to water."

Seaman said a little effort now can save a lot of water for later.

“Yeah, we need to store and save as much of the water as we can as we get into the summer months,” he said. “So, by conserving now, it will basically pay off in the long run."

Seaman said they want everyone who has an automated sprinkler system to check on it, and probably just turn the whole thing off for at least the next couple of days and maybe even the next couple of weeks, because, combined with what we received from this storm and some anticipated smaller storms that are on the horizon, folks shouldn't need to water their lawns for a little while.