Utah drought picture still looks grim in spite of recent rainfall

Sep 20, 2021, 5:30 AM | Updated: 10:29 am
great salt lake drought utah...
Pink water washes over a salt crust on May 4, 2021, along the receding edge of the Great Salt Lake. The lake has been shrinking for years, and a drought gripping the American West could make this year the worst yet. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY — The drought in Utah remains a problem, and even the best of winters will not completely erase it, according to forecasters. 

Utah drought ain’t over till it’s over

“No, the drought is definitely not over,” said KSL Meteorologist Kevin Eubank.

Over 20% of the state remains in “excessive drought,” the worst category, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Roughly 88% of Utah is still in “extreme drought,” the second-worst category. 

“No storm cycle, no season is going to get us out of a multi-year drought. Generally speaking, holistically, it takes as long to get out of a drought as it takes to get in a drought,” Eubank said. 

That means even an exceptional amount of precipitation through the coming fall, winter, and spring won’t do the trick.

A tipping point for water reserves

In normal years, Utah receives enough precipitation to store about a two-year reserve in reservoirs, pipelines, and our secondary and primary water systems. However, this has not been a normal year. 

“Haven’t had good precipitation, it’s been exceptionally dry …. we’re now on the second year of our reserves. There’s nothing left,” said Eubank. 

Eubank flatly declared the reserves are so depleted that the state cannot get through another summer without getting significant water in the coming months. 

Best-case and worst-case scenarios for Utah drought

Ideally, if the state receives significant rainfall through the fall and lots of snow in the winter, that will help replenish the ground soil. 

“So that when the snow comes, that snow when it melts doesn’t go back into the ground to recharge the soil moisture; it runs off into our reservoirs and streams,” Eubank said. 

According to the meteorologist, the state will not even need to receive a normal amount of rain and snow to hold us off next year. 

If the state does not get 75% of normal the amount of precipitation or more, that will cause big problems for 2022. 

“We’re talking major restrictions next year,” Eubank said. “And, we’re not talking secondary. Secondary systems would likely be shut down. The culinary water, the drinking water, the stuff we use in our homes, that would be in peril if we don’t get the kind of water we need.” 

Eubank remains optimistic

The weatherman said he believes Utah will probably receive average or above-average precipitation this fall, winter, and spring. 

“I really do think we’re going to get a good fall, followed by a good winter, and followed by a good spring,” Eubank said. 

If that does happen, we can get by next year. However, that does not bust the Utah drought. That could take years. 

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