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Front Page » January 14, 2014 » Carbon County News » Water supply outlook not very encouraging
Published 189 days ago

Water supply outlook not very encouraging


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

This was the winter that everyone had hoped the snow would fall and water would again fill the reservoirs.

So far, progress toward that goal has not happened.

Snowpack in the Price and San Rafael Basins is below average at 77 percent of normal, compared to 109 percent last year. Precipitation in December was much below average at 61 percent, which brings the seasonal accumulation (Oct-Dec) to 78 percent of average.

Soil moisture is at 62 percent, a very good thing, compared to 38 percent last year. Reservoir storage is at 39 percent of capacity, compared to 46 percent last year. Forecast streamflow volumes range from 65 percent to 91 percent of average. The surface water supply index is 15 percent for the Price River, 30 percent for Joe's Valley, 52 percent for Ferron Creek.

Scofield Reservoir's water storage in December was very low at just under 14,000 acre feet or about 21 percent of capacity. Last year at this time it was at about 40 percent of capacity. A dry year last year created a situation where the reservoir did not fill and a lot of water was used during the dry summer months.

The state has had basically a couple of good storms in the southern part of the state and only one up north thus far as of Jan. 1). The storms across southern Utah had snowpacks up above 200 percent of normal but times have turned lean and dry. However, it is only January and a lot of things can happen between now and April 1, the state's typical snowpack peak. That being said, however, statistics are not on the side of a good water year. Given snowpacks that are 75 percent or lower the probability is that things will improve but the chance of getting back to normal, 100 percent or higher, is low. It is possible but not probable.

Reservoir storage across the state is very low and soil moisture on the Weber and Bear are low as well. Both reservoir storage and soil moisture are much better in southern Utah. Soil moisture is extremely high, which promises higher runoff potential. December precipitation in northern Utah was a pretty uniform or about 70 percent of average. In southern Utah it ranged from 60 percent to about 80 percent of average which bring the seasonal accumulation to about 70 percent in the north and 75 to 110 percent in the south.

The final bit of bad news is that the Climate Prediction Center is forecasting above normal temperatures and average to below average precipitation for the remainder of the winter months. Overall, water supply conditions are below normal in the north and below to near normal in the south.

Mountain precipitation statewide during December was 60 to 80 percent of average which brings the seasonal accumulation (Oct-Dec) to about 75 percent of normal.

Storage in 46 of Utah's key irrigation reservoirs is at 55 percent of capacity compared to 64 percent last year. Reservoir storage two years ago was 84 percent of capacity. That was after an exception snow year in various parts of the state.

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January 14, 2014
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