Latest storm helps snowpack level in Utah; experts urge Utahns to conserve water

Posted at 10:22 PM, Mar 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-24 00:22:23-04

WEST JORDAN, Utah - After a dry February, this week’s snow was a welcome relief to local water conservancy districts, but it’s too soon to tell if it’ll be enough to get us out of a drought pattern.

The National Weather Service reports current snowpack levels across the state are at between 70 to 90 percent of normal following Tuesday’s snowstorm. They sound like good numbers, but Salt Lake City National Weather Service meteorologist in charge Randy Graham said they need to be compared to where we’re at in the season.

“Our water supply forecast for the summer from the Colorado Basin Forecast Center is still below 75 percent of normal runoff in most areas,” Graham said. “That’s because the soil is so dry. We have a lot of catch up to do as far as recharging the soil moisture across the state.”

Water managers at the Jordan Valley Water District watch the weather religiously this time of year. The snow fall in the mountains, somewhere between half a foot and a foot, was a welcome sight, but public information manager Linda Townes said it’s too soon to say whether it will be enough.

“In February there was really no rain, no snow,” Townes said. “We went from 100 percent capacity in reservoirs to 87 percent, this last storm helped. We need several more like it.”

Graham said to get back to what’s considered normal for our area, we need about six to 12 storms just like the last one. That’s not likely to happen, which is why water managers say it’s important people continue to have a conservation mindset even though we’ve had a better year than last year.

“People start watering as soon as it gets hot, it doesn’t matter what time of year it is,” Townes said. “They can actually wait to water, and their roots will grow deeper because they chase the water, so if you can hold off watering, your grass will be healthier and we won’t use as much water.”

Townes said if the weather can be cool and wet until about mid-April, that will ensure snow storage stays where it needs to be until we need it.