Utah drought update: state downgraded from ‘exceptional drought’

Jan 14, 2022, 1:24 PM | Updated: 1:44 pm
Downtown Salt Lake City, as seen from the foothills over the University of Utah. Officials say drou...
FILE: Downtown Salt Lake City, as seen from the foothills over the University of Utah. Officials say drought conditions in the state are at extreme levels.

SALT LAKE CITY — Thanks to heavy snowfall in December, Utah is making a positive comeback for snowpack. According to the Utah Division of Water Resources, 95% of Utah’s water supply comes from snowpack. This means that in the coming months Utah will need significant snowstorms to refill the state’s reservoirs.

“The last four months have been sort of a rollercoaster ride,” said Brian Steed, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources. “November was dry, but thankfully December storms put Utah in a better spot. It’s important to note that the drought is not over.”

The good news is that Utah has been downgraded from the exceptional drought category; although 31.81% remains in “extreme drought.” Additionally, soil moisture is above average for this time of year at 11% above median.

Many of Utah’s reservoirs are lower than their full capacity, and 35 of 45 reservoirs are below 55% capacity. To put it in perspective, overall statewide storage is at 52% of capacity currently, while at this same time last year, reservoirs were about 62% capacity.

Utah still has 82 days until the snowpack typically peaks, but currently statewide snow water equivalent is 9 inches according to the Utah Division of Water Resources. This is 131% of median for this time of year and 56% of median peak which occurs around the beginning of April.

As far as streams, the Utah Division of Water Resources reports 23 of the 65 measured streams are flowing below normal levels.

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Utah drought update: state downgraded from ‘exceptional drought’