Northern Utah snowpack, water in good shape ahead of spring runoff

Mar 7, 2024, 1:00 PM

Noah Pirkle snowshoes by the Mill B trailhead in Big Cottonwood Canyon, utah snowpack looking good...

Noah Pirkle snowshoes by the Mill B trailhead in Big Cottonwood Canyon on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The amount of water contained in the snowpack in northern Utah is in great shape ahead of the spring runoff, according to the Utah Division of Water Resources

In a statement issued Thursday, Director Candice Hasenyager said the conditions were helped by abundant snowfall in the mountains in February. Alta recorded its wettest February ever. 

“Alta’s record-breaking February reminds us how much can change in a month,” Hasenyager said. “Our statewide snowpack has been consistently above normal since the beginning of February, which has really put Utah in a good position as we head into spring.” 

Utah snowpack outlook encouraging, water watchers say

The Natural Resources Conservation Service issued an update on March 1 detailing the amount of water received in the February snowpack, or snow water equivalent –SWE. Water watchers use the snow water equivalent as a gauge of what reservoirs may get in the form of spring runoff later on. 

According to its report, statewide, Utah received a snow water equivalent in February that would be 157% of normal. That means we ended the state with a snow water equivalent that is 117% of normal. 

Jordan Clayton, a supervisor and data collection officer for the Utah Snow Survey, said in a release that 117% is about 48% higher than where we started the year. 

“Utah’s statewide SWE has now exceeded our typical annual peak,” Clayton wrote, “meaning that even if we don’t receive any more snow this winter, we are still guaranteed an above-normal snowpack season.” 

Spring runoff forecast looks robust

Additionally, Clayton reported soil moisture saturation at 56%, which means Utah could keep more of the water contained in the snowpack; moist soils mean more of the meltwater will make its way into reservoirs during the spring runoff, according to the Division of Water Resources. 

Already, reservoirs and the Great Salt Lake reflect the wet winter with their levels.

Statewide, the Division of Water Resources said reservoirs are roughly 83% full, or about 22% more than normal. During this same time last year, they averaged roughly half full. The division says the Great Salt Lake rose 1.8 feet between October and the end of February.

According to Clayton, if precipitation continues on its current trajectory over the coming months, he expects the Great Salt Lake to pick up another 1.2 feet before peaking for the year. 

Hasenyager urged Utahns not to ease up on conservation measures. 

“Our reservoirs are our water savings account,” she said. 

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Northern Utah snowpack, water in good shape ahead of spring runoff