Storms Improve Snowpack But Not Enough To End Drought

Feb 19, 2021, 7:16 PM | Updated: 8:06 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah’s snowpack finally added more than just a few flakes over the past week and there’s more snow in the forecast.

And while the recent storm cycle gave the state’s water supply a significant surge, we’ll need a lot more to recover from the extreme drought that has gripped our state.

“Definitely, we’ve seen significant improvement since this storm cycle came through. But, there are some other areas that are still concerning,” said Jordan Clayton, SNOTEL snow survey supervisor with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Utah always needs big storms to replenish the water supply. Snowmelt that runs into reservoirs is the state’s primary source of water.

The storm two days ago was a big one with a lot of water in it.

“This was a big boost,” Clayton said. “It was a really big boost.“

A snowstorm finally piled a few feet of snow in the mountains but it was not a drought buster, especially in light of the dryness Utah has experienced over the last 11 months. Snowpacks statewide were in bad shape 10 days ago.

“The winter was looking pretty dire,” Clayton said. “We certainly hadn’t gotten snow that we wanted to get up until that point.”

Snowpack statewide was 50% to 60% of normal. That storm cycle, including record snowfall two days ago, raised the snowpack average to 80% — a boost of up to 20%.

“And, that’s not trivial. That’s a lot of water” Clayton said. “We gained around 2 1/2 inches, if you look at the state-wide average again, of snow water equivalent across the state.”

Utah is still about a half-foot short of average on snow water equivalent. Clayton said we would need 2 1/2 more storms like this one before early April to get us back to the average snowpack. The likelihood of that is 10 to 15%, based on their projections.

“It’s not likely at all,” he said. “It could happen. But, it’s not likely at all that we’re going to get to what we would consider normal snowpack.”

Even if those storms delivered the snow, soil moisture underneath the snowpack is poor. Unfortunately, some of that snow will get lost on the way to the reservoirs.

“We are seeing soil moisture levels that are off the charts bad. We really haven’t seen anything even close to this level of dryness going back the 15 to 20 years we’ve been making these observations,” Clayton said.

When the soil under the snow is that dry, spring runoff is less efficient because water from snowmelt seeps into the soil rather than the streams.

“That’s pretty alarming because that really suggests that we’re going to lose a larger percentage than we normally would of the water that comes out of that snowpack when it all melts,” Clayton said.

When the soil is saturated, more water flows into reservoirs which are now 65% of normal, down from 80% a year ago.

“From a water supply perspective, we don’t get the return on investment from that snowpack that we otherwise would have seen,” the hydrologist said.

If Utah has a cool, wet spring and summer, we will use less of that water from the reservoirs. But getting back to average water storage will take more than a few big storms.

KSL 5 TV Live

Local News

The owners of WaterCreek Nails and Spa said a break-in resulted in thousands of dollars worth of da...

Shelby Lofton

Downtown nail spa broken into, hate speech spray-painted on the wall

The owners of WaterCreek Nails and Spa said a break-in resulted in thousands of dollars worth of damage, but the hate speech left behind made the situation worse.

4 hours ago

A Utah Highway Patrol vehicle in Salt Lake City is pictured on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. (Deseret Ne...

Mark Jones

UHP trooper injured in collision with alleged DUI driver

The Utah Highway Patrol says a 24-year-old man was taken into custody early Saturday morning after he was allegedly driving more than 100 mph and attempted to elude authorities.

7 hours ago

City officials in Eagle Mountain say a family of nine has been displaced following a house fire Sun...

Mark Jones

Eagle Mountain family safely escapes house fire, crews prevent home from being total loss

City officials in Eagle Mountain say a family of nine has been displaced following a house fire Sunday afternoon.

9 hours ago

Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Jeffrey R. Holland (center) records a histor...

Tad Walch, Deseret News

‘I’m planning on eternity’: President Holland rededicates historic St. George Utah Temple

President Jeffrey R. Holland rededicated the St. George Utah Temple, the oldest operating temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, after a major renovation.

10 hours ago

Viktoria Tibbitts, center, with her sister and mom. A fundraiser was held Sunday for Viktoria, who ...

Brianna Chavez

Dozens show up to Riverdale Denny’s to support employee hit by truck

A busy Sunday is meant to be expected, but this Sunday's workday was much more meaningful for employees at the Denny's on Riverdale Road.

10 hours ago

Lloyd D. Newell, the announcer and writer of the weekly Music & the Spoken Word broadcast for the p...

Devin Oldroyd

Lloyd Newell announces departure from ‘Music & the Spoken Word’

After 34 years, Lloyd Newell, host of the Tabernacle Choir’s “Music & the Spoken Word”, announced he is concluding his service next year.

12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Design mockup half in white and half in color of luxury house interior with open plan living room a...

Lighting Design

Lighting Design 101: Learn the Basics

These lighting design basics will help you when designing your home, so you can meet both practical and aesthetic needs.

an antler with large horns int he wilderness...

Three Bear Lodge

Yellowstone in the Fall: A Wildlife Spectacle Worth Witnessing

While most people travel to this park in the summer, late fall in Yellowstone provides a wealth of highlights to make a memorable experience.

a diverse group of students raising their hands in a classroom...

Little Orchard Preschool

6 Benefits of Preschool for Kids

Some of the benefits of preschool for kids include developing independence, curiosity, and learning more about the world.

Storms Improve Snowpack But Not Enough To End Drought