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Snowpack measuring sites help forecast 2022 water year

Posted at 9:46 PM, Mar 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-24 23:46:06-04

SALT LAKE CITY — As drought continues to be a top of mind issue in Utah, experts are gathering data and forecasting the 2022 water year in order to better prepare for what lies ahead.

On the slopes of Powder Mountain lies a data collection site that is only accessible by snowmobile. The site, also called a "snotel," stands for SNOpack TELemetry and is a station that experts can use to monitor snowpack conditions.

"This fills an important niche in our net work we didn't have good observations in this corner of the state," said Jordan Clayton, supervisor of the NRCS-Utah Snow Survey.

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The site on Powder Mountain measures the snowpack that feeds the Little Bear River and Ogden Rivers, eventually working back to the Great Salt Lake.

There are 137 of these remote weather stations across Utah, all delivering key data to experts.

"One of the things we are seeing across the state is a really large change from year to year a lot of inter-annual variability in what we are getting," explained Clayton.

Utah has a long history of measuring and collecting data about the snowpack. It's a process that has been refined and improved since the 1920's.

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The data is showing something alarming, but not surprising.

"I think we already know, we are not in the best shape from a snow pack perspective this winter," Clayton said. "It's not as bad as it could be but we're about 88% of normal."

Experts say soil moisture is up, but reservoirs in the area are at record low levels, which directly impacts the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District.

"We are looking at definite restrictions," explained Darren Hess, who serves as the assistant general manager and COO of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District,

Based on current data, the plan is to make a 60% cut on irrigation usage, 40% cut on agriculture usage and a 10% cut on drinking water.

Although exact water restriction and conservancy measures can't be predicted at this points, snowpack measuring sites ensure that experts have data in order to plan ahead for dry, hot summer conditions.