Four south-central Utah counties are facing a critical water shortage if water content in the mountain snowpack doesn't increase dramatically in the next two months.

That conclusion is based on data gathered last week by a Soil Conservation Service survey crew that went by helicopter onto major watersheds in the Emery-Juab-Sanpete-Sevier area.The data the crew obtained in the first extensive survey for the water year show the water content in the snowbanks far below normal at most sites.

Here's the picture county by county:

Juab - At Reese's Flat east of Levan, there are 26 inches of snow containing 7.4 inches of water. That's 66 percent of normal. It's also below last year's total for early March.

Emery - The Seeley Creek Ranger Station course has 5.5 inches of water in a snow cover that changes almost constantly because of winds along the summit. That 5.5 inches is 40 percent of average.

Sanpete - Measurements were taken on three Sanpete watersheds.

There are 40 inches of snow, containing 10.6 inches of water, 58 percent of normal, at the Mammoth-Cottonwood course in Fairview Canyon. Higher in the canyon, at the summit, the snow is 43 inches deep at the Huntington-Horseshoe course. It contains 12.8 inches of water, or 60 percent of normal.

The Headquarters course in Ephraim Canyon has 34 inches of snow, containing 9.2 inches of water, 65 percent, and the Meadows course, near the top, 44 inches of snow, containing 11 inches of water, 55 percent.

The snow is 49 inches deep, with 12.6 inches of water, 62 percent, at the Mount Baldy Ranger Station in Twelve Mile Canyon, east of Mayfield, and 23 inches deep, with 6.1 inches of water, 58 percent, at the Beaver Dams lower in the watershed.

Sevier - The water prospects are somewhat better for the crucial Salina Canyon drainage. There are 51 inches of snow, containing 14.4 inches of water, 93 percent of average, at Farnsworth Lake; 36 inches of snow, containing 9.8 inches of water, 97 percent, at the Gooseberry Ranger Station, and 38 inches of snow, with 9.5 inches of water, 65 percent, at Pickle Keg Springs.

The water in storage on most of the watersheds is even less than last year at this time and indicates a fifth year of continuing drought, Ralph Mickelsen, SCS technician, commented.

Although Lee J. Anderson, cooperative weather observer in Manti, measured only .27 inch of water for February at this station, whereas normal is 1.11 inches, he's more optimistic.

For one thing, he said, the Sanpete Valley is at 88 percent of normal for the water year, and, for another, March and April, the wettest months of the year, still are due to deliver the stuff that keeps the meadows green and the alfalfa fields good for three crops.