Utah snowpack below normal, reservoirs above average

Nov 30, 2023, 4:58 PM

man with shovel demonstrates depth of utah snowpack...

Dave Eiriksson, Natural Resources Conservation Service snow survey hydrologist, stands in a snow pit that was dug to access buried electrical components at the Atwater SNOwpack TELemetry (SNOTEL) site, operated by the USDA’s NRCS, in Alta, on Thursday, March 16, 2023. Last year's winter was a banner year for snowpack - water watchers hope this year brings more of the same. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The first day of December marks about 125 days left until Utah typically reaches its peak snowpack for the water year, which began Oct. 1 — and it’s off to a slow start. 

The latest update from the Utah Division of Water Resources measures the state’s Snow Water Equivalent, SWE, at about 39% below normal for the date, according to a weekly release from the department. The SWE estimates how much water is available in the snowpack

Contrasting that, the state’s reservoirs registered about 20% higher-than-normal levels for the time of year, at roughly 77% full, in this week’s report. 

Utah snowpack vs. reservoir levels

The two metrics help the state both gauge the state of things currently but also what the future holds. In order for the reservoirs to remain at healthy levels, Utah needs good snowpack this winter to replenish the water that flows into them. 

Joel Williams, deputy director of the division, said those contrasting measurements demonstrate the need for conservation. 

“The water year is off to a slow start, but it’s still early,” he said in the release. “From now until April will be pivotal in determining the overall water outlook for the state.” 

He encouraged Utahns to do their part to conserve while staying optimistic for more powder to build up the Utah snowpack. 

“I hope we have another record snow year, but at the same time, it’s crucial that we plan for all possibilities,” he said. 

Winter conservation: Look for leaks

In warmer weather, water watchers advise looking at measures like converting park strips to drought-resistant landscaping or gravel, or reducing the frequency and length of sprinkler use.

But the division said conservation can still happen in the winter, through things like looking for leaks and replacing fixtures with more efficient versions.

For example, the state’s Slow the Flow website reports dripping faucets and other leaks account for about 14% of our total use of water indoors. 

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Utah snowpack below normal, reservoirs above average