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Water levels for Utah snowpack, reservoirs remain low, but all isn't bad

Posted at 6:09 PM, Dec 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-03 20:09:02-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A new climate and water report issued for Utah is not promising for the state.

Data in the Natural Resources Conservation Service report details some of the main concerns from the first few months of Utah's water year which begins in October.

“We're currently at about 31% of normal for this time of year. November was not the month we were hoping for from a precipitation perspective.” said Jordan Clayton, a supervisor with the agency. “What that means for our snowpack is that across the state, we have snow water equivalent numbers that are way below normal for this time of year.”

Utah's October numbers were looking well above-average for that time of year, as well as compared to past years. The state also had a very favorable monsoon season this year and those conditions helped, but a hearty snow pack is what's needed to get lakes and reservoirs get filled again.

“Most of that snow at the very highest elevations, a lot of that snow is still there.” Clayton said of October's snowfall, but “once you start to get come down just a little bit in elevation, a lot of that snow is since melted away. And so we are still seeing the benefit from the soil moisture perspective some of that moisture is still being stored in the head water but we are just not accumulating snow the way that we need too.”

The situation in northern Utah is fairing a bit better than that southern portion.

“In many of the mountains, particularly in southern Utah, there's actually no snow at many of our … sites where we measure the snowpack,” said Clayton.

Reservoirs in the state are currently at an average level of 49%, about 13% below last year. But the level isn’t all bad news because experts last summer suspected it would be much lower.

Clayton points to the good monsoon year, but also Utah residents putting in the effort towards saving water.

“There was really hard work done to conserve water last summer,” said Clayton. "That's why we didn't draw down our reservoirs as much as we could have. Keep it going.”

Another concern is the Great Salt Lake, with the the lake accounting for about 10% of the state's snowpack through lake affect snow.

“As the lake starts to shrink, that lake effect goes down. It's it's really simple.” Clayton explained.

So are these the worst conditions Utah has ever seen?

"If you would have asked me that question in July, I probably would have said yes,” answered Clayton, who added he is optimistic a turnaround could happen in December, but won't rely on one either.

“We'll take what we can get at this point.”