Ravell Call, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — It may not look like it, feel like it or drive like it out there, but the northern half of Utah has slim shovelings in terms of mountain snowpack and the water outlook is dismal.
According to the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service's report issued Thursday, "2014 may not be the year we all want and have hoped for. The state has had basically a couple of good storms down south and only one up north thus far in the water year. "
While at one point southern Utah had snowpacks that eclipsed 200 percent of normal, the weather there has since turned dry.
"Northern Utah has been behind all along with dinky storms and stinky air," the report said.
Put out by the Utah Snow Survey, the report notes that snowstorms like the ones rollicking through this week could help to possibly lift the state out of a third dry year, but it is not likely.
Randy Julander, the snow survey supervisor, said snowpacks at 75 percent of normal on Jan. 1 typically have low chances of reaching that normal or above normal range.
"We're dug so far deep into a hole it is hard to climb out of," Julander said.
Another grim consideration, he said, is that the Climate Prediction Center is forecasting above normal temperatures coupled with average or below average precipitation for the remainder of the winter months.
Julander said if the picture remains this grim another six or so weeks from now, people should brace for impacts during the watering season.
"Water managers are looking to come out early and aggressive on water conservation," he said.
The report goes onto note:
• Seasonal accumulation from October through December is 75 percent of normal across the state.
• Storage in 46 of Utah's key irrigation reservoirs is 55 percent of capacity, compared with 64 percent last year. Storage two years ago was 84 percent of capacity.
• Stream flows from snowmelt are forecast to be "below" to "much below" normal in the north and near normal to below normal in the south.
The situation in Summit, Weber, Morgan and Davis counties is particularly dire, according to the report. Reservoirs that provide secondary water are at 33 percent of capacity.
Utah has spent the past two years in the grips of an unrelenting drought cycle, with watering restrictions imposed in late summer because of shortfalls suppliers were facing. The cutbacks not only impacted irrigation water, but some cities were faced with potential culinary shortages because of the dry conditions.
The federal government has declared multiple counties in Utah as disaster areas due to drought, and the past two years have brought devastating wildfire seasons that are continuing to pose watershed and mudslide risks to communities in Emery and Utah counties.
Julander said if snowstorms were like baseball, Utah residents should wish for a bases-loaded grand slam in this ninth-inning phase of the water year.
"But the probability is that we are staring at another ugly year right in the face," he said.
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