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Utah water supply: Scientists say reservoirs healthy, worry about groundwater

Geoff Liesik, Deseret News FILE - A view of Flaming Gorge Reservoir.

SALT LAKE CITY – With Utah experiencing several 100 degree plus days recently, Utahns have been turning on the tap for a cool drink of water or using more than normal to keep their lawns green. 

How has this increased use affected the state’s water supply? 

While it’s too soon to say for sure just how much reservoirs will be affected, Glen Merrill with the National Weather Service says many, like those in the Weber River basin area, are 80% full and doing well for this time of year. 

But with very little rainfall in the spring, the runoff that usually feeds the state’s groundwater took a hit. 

“The spring was so dry, and we warmed up so quickly in the spring, that the efficiency of the runoff wasn’t as good as it normally is. Even though we were near normal with snow, we saw the runoff more like 70-80% of normal,” Merrill said. 

And although it’s unlikely the situation will get better soon, Merrill is holding out hope. 

“Even if we go and have more precipitation, more showers and thunderstorms in August and September like we usually do, that’s really not going to have much of an impact on the reservoir levels. It’ll just aid with soil conditions,” Merrill said. 

In the meantime, he is asking people in Utah to conserve as much water as they can. 

“We’re putting a lot of demand on the system now, and we’re hoping we’re going to have a better snow melt-runoff season next year. Because if we have multiple years like this in a row, that’s when things really start falling behind,” Merrill said.