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Much more snowpack needed to ease severe drought conditions

Utah Drought
Posted at 11:13 AM, Feb 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-10 13:30:29-05

SALT LAKE CITY — December storms raised hope that Utah's extreme drought conditions would improve, but a very dry January left the state with a stagnant snowpack, according to the Utah Department of Water Resources.

Almost all of Utah's water supply comes from snowpack—95 percent—so above-average snowstorms are needed to fill reservoirs.

“The rollercoaster ride continues,” said Brian Steed, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources.

“Dry weather isn’t what we want. We need consistent snowstorms. These next two months will really determine what kind of spring runoff we will have."

As of February 10, one-third of Utah is in extreme drought, with nearly all of the state — nearly 94 percent — in severe drought.

Statewide, the snow water equivalent (how much water would be in the snowpack if it melted) is 9 inches, close to 90 percent of the median for this time of year.

Utah's reservoirs continue to struggle, with three-fourths of Utah’s largest reservoirs below 55 percent of capacity.

Soil moisture, which is crucial for an effective spring run-off, is nearly 10 percent above median for this time of year, which is much better than last year. But because the state began the year in "debt" water-wise, a better-than-average year is needed for the state to climb out of its severe drought condition.

Yet the Great Salt Lake is rising after dropping to an historic low in October 2021, and there's still nearly two months until the snowpack typically peaks.