February snow totals guarantee above-normal snowpack, Great Salt Lake level increases

Mar 7, 2024, 4:48 PM | Updated: Mar 8, 2024, 7:15 am

Utah's above-normal snowpack at Snowbird...

Skiers are seen at Snowbird Ski Resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon on Monday, March 4, 2024. After a weekend of snowstorms, the snowpack depth is currently at 107 inches. (Marielle Scott, Deseret News)

(Marielle Scott, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The latest Utah Snow Survey from the Natural Resources Conservation Services said the state received 157% of the normal amount of snow water equivalent in February.

“February was a great month for Utah’s snowpack,” Utah Water Resources Director Candice Hasenyager said.

“Our statewide snow water equivalent has now exceeded our typical annual peak,” the report said. “That is 48% higher than at the beginning of the calendar year!”

The statewide SWE has exceeded the typical annual peak according to the report. That means Utah is set for an above-normal snowpack this season, even if we don’t get another snowflake.

In early January, most of Utah’s mountaintops did not have enough snow. The mountains of northern Utah, depending on the location, were about 15% to 30% below seasonal norms.

Southern Utah was staring down a very uncomfortable situation. The southwest and Escalante regions were between 50% to almost 60% below normal, meaning they hadn’t gotten half the snow they needed to anticipate a healthy snowpack in the spring.

Looking ahead

Forecasts for the April to July snowmelt runoff are also encouraging as they range from 42% to 154% on average.

“Forecasts are generally above-normal flows in northern Utah — particularly the Bear, Weber, and Provo-Jordan basins — close to normal flows in central Utah, and below normal flows in southern Utah — particularly for the Sevier, Beaver, and Southwestern Utah areas,” according to the report.

The winter snow tally has also had a positive impact on reservoir storage. Statewide the state is at 82% of capacity. The report indicated that is 31% higher than last year.

This year the report includes basin-level conditions and inflow forecasts for the Great Salt Lake. All of them are encouraging.

Snow water equivalent in the GSL basin is 123% of normal, according to the report.

Also, the report said February precipitation in the GSL basin was 183% of normal. The water year-to-date precipitation value is at 118% of normal. Soil moisture is well above normal at 67% of saturation, and the basin’s reservoir storage is at 84% of capacity. “With only 16% of available capacity remaining to fill in GSL basin reservoirs, it is likely that a large amount of additional water will be available to flow into the Great Salt Lake itself once all that snow melts,” it stated.

The report predicted the lake level will rise 1.2 feet from the beginning of March until the lake reaches its peak water elevation of around 4,195 feet for this year.

Utah Lake has benefitted from the winter snowfall. In early February, control gates in Saratoga Springs opened to release water into the Great Salt Lake.

“We’re releasing about 300 million gallons of water every day here,” said Wade Tuft, water supply manager for the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District.

After last winter’s exceptional snowpack, and this season’s great start, Utah Lake is full.

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February snow totals guarantee above-normal snowpack, Great Salt Lake level increases