Early snow measurements show northern Utah is recovering from the summertime drought, but officials are guarding their optimism about the improved figures.
"Conditions aren't great yet, but they are a lot better," Jon Werner, data collection supervisor for the Soil Conservation Service, told the Board of Water Resources Friday.The average precipitation since the water year began Oct. 1 was 41 to 51 percent in the northern part of the state, according to readings taken Nov. 14 by the conservation service's remote measuring equipment. But Nov. 28 measurements showed 107 percent in Tooele County, 89 percent in the Provo/Jordan River drainage, 89 percent in the Weber Basin and 90 percent north of the Weber Basin.
Statewide, precipitation levels are 78 percent of average, compared to 42 percent on Nov. 14.
Werner called the improvement in snow depths "an encouraging trend" but said the figures improved because of just a few major storm systems that have rolled through Utah during the past two weeks. Snow that piled up during the first winter storms won't account for much if the precipitation drops off between now and the end of the year, he said. "We're only 15 percent into the snow accumulation period."
"Most water managers are telling me they're going to need 110 to 125 percent of normal (precipitation) to have an average runoff," Werner said. National Weather Service forecasts call for precipitation for the year to be 80 percent of average in the Weber Basin, and 90 percent of average in the Provo/Jordan River drainage.
Most northern Utah reservoirs were much lower than average when the 1988 water year ended Sept. 30. Water managers like to end the summer irrigation season with reservoirs 70 percent full, Werner said. But as of Oct. 31, Weber Basin reservoirs were an average of 40 percent full with Pineview at only 23 percent of its capacity.
Deer Creek was 45 percent full. Larger reservoirs in the state fared better - Strawberry was at 50 percent, Flaming Gorge 81 percent and Lake Powell 90 percent.
Cloud seeding programs financed in part by the state are also operating in some areas.