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Utah's drought, low water levels worry experts

Posted at 6:12 PM, Dec 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-01 20:12:25-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Most of Utah is experiencing extreme to exceptional drought and surface water levels aren’t the only measurements worrying experts.

“Still waiting to do more snow activities,” said Caitlin Jenkins while hiking Big Cottonwood Canyon Tuesday.

While the water year started October 1, Utah’s snow has already fallen below normal.

“I thought there would be a little more but I’m not at all surprised with how little there is at the moment,” said David Bible.

The Cottonwood Heights man isn’t surprised because all of Utah is in a drought. The lack of significant rainfall in 2020 put much of the state in the driest categories.

“It’s frightening,” said Utah Snow Survey’s Jordan Clayton. “We really are hoping we improve soon.”

Clayton said soil moisture levels not only hit record lows, but beat previous records by a huge margin.

“Those are off the charts bad. The percent normal numbers for our soil moisture are below what we’ve seen in our observations going back 20 years,” said Clayton.

Why is that a problem? The dry soil will soak up melting snow like a sponge before it can drain to our rivers and reservoirs.

“With the soil so dry, it will take even more snow to take us to where we will have a normal runoff,” said Clayton.

Reservoir levels are down 13 percent from this time last year and there is no significant storm on the horizon.

“That’s definitely alarming,” said Jenkins.