A new tool will offer better understanding of snow-to-stream water levels in northern Utah

Mar 25, 2022, 12:12 PM
snow survey...
Utah Snow Survey Supervisor Jordan Clayton discusses the recently installed SNOTEL or SNOW Telemetry measuring site at Powder Mountain Ski Resort. Photo credit: Jacob Rueda

EDEN, Utah — To better understand snow and water levels in Utah, a new SNOTEL or Snow Telemetry unit was installed at the top of Powder Mountain Ski Resort last year. It is one of 137 measuring sites around the state.

The SNOTEL measures snow levels and records data. Then, the information is used to determine snowpack to streamflow levels. Utah Snow Survey Supervisor Jordan Clayton said installing the measuring site at Powder Mountain was necessary.

“This fills an important niche in our network,” he said. “We didn’t have good observations in this corner of the state.”

The site at Powder Mountain serves five counties: Davis, Weber, Morgan, Summit, and parts of Box Elder County.

Many agencies depend on knowledge of water levels 

The data collected from the SNOTEL is sent to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) website where it is available for public view. Local and state governments also use the data to help them make decisions about development, restrictions, or anything else that depends on water use.

Below, Justin Byington, a hydrologist with the NRCS, collects a snow sample for processing.

During a press conference at the site, Clayton, along with other scientists and a representative with a local water agency, discussed the measuring site and the effects of the snowpack, which Clayton said was about 88 percent of normal for the area served.

“The runoff [that] soaked into the soil did not make it to our rivers and our streams,” Weber Basin Water Conservancy District COO Darren Hess said. “[It] did not replenish our reservoirs.”

Water restrictions may be needed, Hess said, because of the low levels. 

“We have talked about potential restrictions that might happen,” he said. “But we (wouldn’t approve) those until the end of this month.”

Even though the future outlook appears grim, Hess said there are some upsides at the moment including knowing that they can provide irrigation and drinking water.

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A new tool will offer better understanding of snow-to-stream water levels in northern Utah