Snow is stacked high in the mountains and other places throughout Utah, but don't be fooled into thinking that will guarantee adequate water supplies come next summer.

It will all depend on snowfall during the rest of the winter, the amount of water in the snowpack, temperatures and various other factors.As of Monday the water outlook appeared pretty good statewide, according to officials at the National Weather Service and the Soil Conservation Service.

But it is premature to determine now what water supplies will actually be like by next summer.

William J. Alder, meteorologist in charge of the Salt Lake office of the National Weather Service, said Tuesday that Utah has received lots of snow in recent days. But it has been mainly dry snow. Water content in the snow has not been the greatest, he said.

"The snowpack in all the drainage basins is below normal to well below normal. To me it looks like the drought is alive and well," Alder said.

"We need more storms the remainder of December and through April. I would like to see water in the snowpack at 125 percent of normal. But that may be too much to ask. Even numbers close to normal or 100 percent would be wonderful," he said.

Jon Werner, snow data collection officer, U.S. Soil Conservation Service, said water in the snowpack was about 65 percent of normal.

Storms during the past week have resulted in about a 5 percent increase in water content in the snow.

"Big improvements have been noted along the Wasatch Front and in the Weber Basin drainage, where we have moved from 64 percent to about 75 percent of normal. The (latter figure) is only three-fourths of normal, but much better than 64 percent," Werner said.

Figures for the Provo River drainage jumped from 56 percent to 65 percent and the Sevier River system, from 76 to 89 percent of average, Werner said.

A large increase - from 69 to 90 percent - was reported for the Virgin River drainage, located in the Zion National Park area.

"It doesn't take a lot (of storms or moisture) to make a difference in that area." Heavy storms in that area last week made a big difference, Werner said. "The same storm in northern Utah wouldn't have made nearly the big difference in the percentages."

The San Juan and San Rafael area in the southeastern Utah drainage is about 50 percent of normal. That area hasn't received the storms that have benefited other areas of the state, Werner said.

"This is the time of the year when we usually have (big) increases in snow each week. When that fails to happen, we see the percentage figures begin to drop. Regular storms are needed between December and January," Werner said.

As of Tuesday, December precipitation at the Salt Lake International Airport totaled 0.46 inches, which compares with the normal amount, 1.08 inches. Precipitation totaled 2.39 inches since Oct. 1 (the beginning of the 1990-91 water year). That is 69 percent of the normal amount, 3.44 inches.


(Additional information)

Water in snowpack, Dec. 24


Drainage basin of normal

Tooele Valley, Vernon Creek 33

Price, San Rafael 44

Southeastern Utah 50

Dirty Devil 52

Bear River 56

Escalante River 61

Provo and Jordan River, Utah Lake 65

Duchesne River 74

Weber-Ogden River 75

Green River 77

Beaver River 78

Sevier River Basin 89

Virgin River 95

Source: U.S. Soil Conservation Service.