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Measuring snowpack near Powder Mountain, experts say conditions look grim

Mar 25, 2022, 3:55 PM | Updated: Jun 7, 2022, 5:23 pm
Hydrologists with 
NRCS Utah
 took us to one of their monitoring stations to talk about the snowpac...
Hydrologists with NRCS Utah took us to one of their monitoring stations to talk about the snowpack.

WEBER COUNTY, Utah — Even with a decent snowpack this winter, 97% of Utah remains in extreme or severe drought and Utah’s statewide snowpack is average in the mid-to-high 80 percentile.

That’s better than what it’s been, but because of two extremely dry years previously, Utah’s reservoirs still need a lot of help, and hydrologists say water restrictions will most likely be necessary this spring and summer.

Work isn’t really work when you love what you do. You can usually tell by their smiles.

“It’s honestly one of the best jobs I can imagine,” said Dave Eiriksson.

“I can’t believe I get paid to do this,” said Jordan Clayton.

Both are hydrologists with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Even though there’s work to be done entering data in an office, they are often outdoors in beautiful postcard-perfect views.

Thursday afternoon, they were part of a group giving a tour of one of the NRCS’ new snowpack telemetry sites at Powder Mountain in Weber County.

Being on top of mountains gives them views many people never see.

Even with all this natural beauty, though, they see plenty to be concerned about.

“I would be lying if I said I didn’t get scared,” said Clayton, who is also a supervisor for datal collection with the Utah Snow Survey.

Hydrologists know better than anyone how dire Utah’s snowpack situation is.

“This is where we’re getting all of our water, for irrigation, for agriculture, for municipal uses. For everything,” said Clayton. “Our success as a state depends on our water years.

The official snow season ends on April 1. Even with decent snow this winter, 97% of the state is still in severe or extreme drought.

Below Powder Mountain is Pineview Reservoir. Currently, Clayton says Pineview is only 26% full.

Part of why it and other reservoirs are so empty is because last year, the soil moisture was low.

That means a lot of water that came down mountains didn’t make it to the reservoirs.

“When the soil is really dry, the water just soaks into the soil,” said Darren Hess.

Hess is the chief operating officer for the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District.

He says soil moisture is better this year, but there will most likely be restrictions this spring and summer.

“We hate to do restrictions,” he said. “It’s not something the public likes. Obviously, there is going to be pushback and a lot of concern, but we need to manage this resource the best that we can.”

Water conservation and a better snowpack next year will help with water levels.

For these hydrologists, seeing full reservoirs in Utah again would be the best views of all.

“Sooner or later, we’re going to get another big winter,” said Clayton. “I hope it’s soon, but we’re going to get there.”

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Measuring snowpack near Powder Mountain, experts say conditions look grim