Winter has helped state’s drought Utah expert says, still, long road ahead

Jan 24, 2023, 7:00 PM | Updated: Jan 25, 2023, 7:04 am

Utah reservoirs...

Water runs down the canyon as the snowpack melts in Big Cottonwood Canyon on Monday, April 20, 2020. This winter's snowpack is helping with the state's drought. However, an expert says Utah will need two more winters like the one it has experienced this year to be fully out of the drought. Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — While there is still a long way to go to ending the state’s drought, this winter has allowed the state to take one giant step in the right direction.

According to recent numbers from the state, snowpack around Utah is currently at 183% of normal.

“Utah’s doing great as far as our snowpack concern,” said Candice Hasenyager, director of the Division of Water Resources. “We are around 180% of normal for this time of year. Which makes it the best winter, we’ve had so far that we’ve seen in the last 20 years.”

However, the state remains in a drought, which makes the need for additional moisture even more important.

“About 100 percent of the state is still in some level of drought,” Hasenyager said. “We are out of the exceptional drought state wide, so that’s good news.”

How much longer will the state’s drought last?

Hasenyager says knowing for sure when a drought starts and ends can be difficult to predict. However, she thinks it will take two more winters like the one Utah has experienced this year to end the drought. 

“Drought is a little tricky,” she said. “Because we don’t know exactly when it starts or when it stops. Because the impact can be kind of slow moving and the recovery can be slow as well. And so, we are anticipating it will take a couple more years of good snowpack and good water supply to get us fully out of the drought conditions that we’ve been in.”

Despite all the moisture Utah has received this winter, Hasenyager says this isn’t the time to end the conservation efforts.

“This is our year to really refill our reservoirs and conserve,” she said. “We need to continue that conservation ethic because we don’t really know if we’re off this drought. One good year is not going to solve it.”

A little more than 60 percent of the reservoirs that are monitored by Hasenyager’s division are still at or below half full.

“We all need to do our part on that,” she said. “We really don’t know what the long-term outlook will be.”

Mark Jones contributed to this article. 

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Winter has helped state’s drought Utah expert says, still, long road ahead