Hydrologist Reveals How Much Summer Storms Actually Help Utah’s Drought

Jul 23, 2021, 4:05 PM | Updated: Mar 3, 2022, 10:25 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — If the storm Thursday night didn’t damage your home or cause any other problems, it definitely helped your trees, flowers, and lawn. The question is, how much?  

KSL-TV talked with a hydrologist about the difference a big dump of rain can make.

“We’re pretty far in the hole when it comes to how much precipitation we need to get out of the drought,” said Hydrologist Jordan Clayton, the Natural Resources Conservation Services snow survey supervisor in Utah. 

That’s hard to believe after all of the rain and flowing water that pounded Utah this week. 

Utah is 10 inches behind on precipitation this water year, Clayton said. 

If you add that to 2020’s deficit, the state was 17.5 inches in the hole before this week’s storms.

“The precipitation we just received two days ago and yesterday in the state of Utah did help a little bit,” said Clayton. “We bounced up about an inch at a state-wide level for precipitation.” 

The state is now roughly 16 inches behind average precipitation. 

“We’ll take the precipitation we can get, and these little events here and there, like the monsoonal rain, does help,” the hydrologist said. “However, the number one way we’re going to get out of the drought is above-average snowpack.” 

That makes a drought buster from a series of summer storms practically impossible. 

“We could potentially get a drought buster winter,” he said. “It would be statistically unlikely. It would take a really, really extraordinarily deep snowpack to have this turn around in just one winter.” 

More likely, to get out of this drought, Clayton said Utah needs multiple seasons of above-average snowpack. 

“What we’re looking at now isn’t just a soil moisture deficit, or a precipitation deficit, or a reservoir deficit — it’s all of those things. That’s why we’re at 100% of the state in either extreme or exceptional drought,” he said.

Streams across the state are at record low flows. They’re not delivering any more water to the reservoirs.

By the end of the summer, reservoir storage statewide will be around 40%, down from 55%, right now.

If Utah doesn’t get above-average snowpack this coming winter, Clayton said the situation will get worse. 

“We could be looking at reservoir capacity at a statewide level in the 15% range, or worse, by the end of next summer,” he said. 

That’s why it’s so important for all Utahns to turn off outside watering after a storm.

Clayton said we should skip our next watering to keep more of that water in storage because we’re going to need it. 

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Hydrologist Reveals How Much Summer Storms Actually Help Utah’s Drought