NRCS-Utah Snow Survey Climate and Water Report

Press release

General summary:

Valley conditions (SCAN): May was a disappointing month for precipitation in Utah's valleys. At our SCAN sites, we received 0.5 inches of precipitation, which was well below normal (64%). The range was from 0 inches of precipitation in the St. George region to 134% of normal precipitation in the Uinta Basin. Statewide soil moisture at Utah's SCAN sites ended the month at 43% of saturation, which (disappointingly) ranks in the bottom percentile and 12% lower than this time last year. In fact, valley floors in the St. George region are drier than at any time since these SCAN sites were established. Finally, as of June 1,st Both air and ground temperatures in Utah's valleys were fairly close to normal.

Mountain conditions (SNOTEL): We fared much better in the mountains than in Utah's valleys, where our May precipitation was close to normal, with 2.3 inches of rainfall recorded at our SNOTEL sites. Our year-to-date precipitation is currently at 108% of normal. Of Utah's major watersheds, 6 had above-normal May precipitation and 10 had below-normal (ranging from 35% in southwest Utah to 135% in the Weber-Ogden watershed). And unlike Utah's valleys, precipitation on June 1 wasst Mountain soil moisture was above normal nationwide at 78% saturation, reflecting ongoing snowmelt at our higher elevations.

Water availability: Utah's reservoirs are in EXCELLENT condition. Statewide reservoirs are currently at 91% capacity, which is the highest level in at least 15 years, if not longer. Several basins are at or near their reservoir capacity (Weber-Ogden, Tooele Valley, Duchesne, Provo, Price, Southeastern Utah, and Beaver watersheds). Water Availability Indices (WAIs) for Utah's basins combine current reservoir conditions with observed monthly water volume for each region. WAIs are at percentile or higher for five of Utah's major basins, and only the Lower Sevier is below percentile reflecting the statewide benefit of two consecutive years of above-average snowpack. However, the Great Salt Lake (GSL) and Lake Powell still require a lot of water, so it will be important to use our water resources sparingly this summer. Lake Powell is currently 36% full (based on current storage and a recently updated maximum reservoir capacity value of 23,314,000 acre-feet (kaf), which is the updated official value from the Bureau of Reclamation). Taking into account current snowpack and cumulative precipitation conditions, the NRCS National Water and Climate Center's 50% exceedance probability projections for April-July and June-July inflow for Lake Powell are 5,240 kaf and 3,090 kaf, which are 85 and 92 percent of the median, respectively. The GSL has also improved due to this year's meltwater; The lake recently peaked at 4,195 feet, which is (perhaps fortunately) remarkably close to our previous predictions for maximum lake levels this year. Although the GSL level of 4,195 feet is more than 6 feet higher than its historic low from a few winters ago, the lake is still about 3 feet below optimal levels, according to the USGS' Great Salt Lake Hydro Mapper.

Anna Harden

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