Dense, wet snow making a dent in Utah’s drought

Jan 5, 2023, 5:00 PM | Updated: 6:58 pm

SALT LAKE CITYThe storms that keep dumping wet snow on Utah are exactly what we need to recover from extended drought, and there’s another one moving in. There’s also improvement on the drought monitor map. 

The snowpack was doing well before Christmas, and it’s grown even more over the last couple of weeks.

The heavy, wet snow that is so difficult to shovel is great for drought recovery.

“Right now, we’re in good shape,” said Laura Haskell, drought coordinator for the Utah Division of Water Resources. “If we can just keep this coming; we just need the consistent storms.”

Utah currently has 168% of average snow water equivalent in the snowpack statewide. Utah’s mountains have received 10 inches of water since Oct. 1, with an average peak of nearly 16 inches snow water equivalent around April 1. But to replenish our reservoirs, we need more than average snow water equivalency over the next three months. 

Haskell said the density of the snow in recent storms makes a difference.

“Usually, it takes about 10 inches of snow to get an inch of water, and these last storms, we’ve had about an inch of water in about five inches of snow,” Haskell said. “So that’s great. If you’re shoveling it, it’s really heavy and not so good. But for the water, it’s great.”

That’s twice the typical amount of water in the snow in storms that began right after Christmas.

The drought monitor map just released Thursday shows nearly the entire state still affected by severe drought, but not as bad as it has been. 

“We’re still in the severe drought. The drought hasn’t gone away,” Haskell said. “But it has gotten just a little bit better where we’re not in that extreme condition as much.”

Areas of extreme and exceptional drought are smaller than they were six months ago.

“We are seeing a lot of improvement in our snowpack, which is good. We’re hoping that we don’t follow what we did last year,” the drought coordinator said. “We got pretty optimistic, and then we just didn’t have any storms for five weeks or so.“

That dry period in January and February depleted Utah’s snowpack last year, and it never recovered.

“It was five, almost six weeks to have just nothing added to the snowpack.”

Great news three months into the water year as long as the storms keep coming. 

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Dense, wet snow making a dent in Utah’s drought