The snowpack in the mountains, for the most part, is better than in 1990. However, statewide precipitation for the current water year is still lagging behind normal, despite a spate of March storms.
While this year's increased precipitation is welcome, it is not enough to offset the cumulative impact of five straight drought years. Many Utah reservoirs are not expected to fill, and water conservancy districts and cities are already announcing water restriction guidelines for the coming summer months.Farmers are expected to be hardest hit as districts put severe limitations on irrigation allocations. Residential users will also feel the pinch, especially in areas where secondary water systems provide most the water for lawns and gardens.
The latest snowpack reading from the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, completed on April 1, shows the Tooele Valley-Vernon Creek drainage is in the worstshape with just 58 percent of average for the current water year, which began Oct. 1. The statewide average is at 79 percent.
The April 1 reading is used to gauge summer prospects since storms after that date generally add little to the snowpack. While April is generally the wettest month of the year, most of the moisture falls in the form of rain, not snow.
The major benefit from wet weather in April and May is a reduced demand for stored water. Water districts are able to delay irrigation deliveries and store more water in reservoirs for late summer use.
The southwest area of the state appears in the best shape, while percentages for southeast and eastern Utah are considered fairly good.
Probably the best news during March was the cool mountain temperatures. The cool air kept the mountain snowpack virtually intact.
Utah snow pack
Snow pack water content compared to the 25 year average (1961-1985)
Percent of Average
Region April 1, 1991 April 2, 1990
1. Bear River 71% 60%
2. Weber Ogden Rivers 82% 66%
3. Tooele Valley-Vernon Creek 58% 52%
4. Provo River-Utah Lake
Jordan River 78% 74%
5. Duchesne River 87% 85%
6. Green River 82% 94%
7. Price-San Rafael Rivers 75% 69%
8. Sevier River 85% 64%
9. Beaver River 95% 61%
10. Virgin River 92% 45%
11. Escalante River 70% 60%
12. Dirty Devil River 64% 53%
13. Southeastern Utah 81% 33%
STATE AVERAGE 79% 67%
No drought relief
A two-day snowstorm that left up to eight inches of snow on some valley lawns Wednesday and Thursday will do little to relieve current drought conditions in the state.
Bill Alder, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service's Salt Lake Office, said snows with high water content were isolated to a few areas, mostly in the mountains in Salt Lake County and the Uinta Mountains.
The extended forecast calls for improving conditions, with sunny skies and temperatures headed back up. Daytime highs Monday will range from the upper 50s to 60s.