Does Lower-than-Average Snowfall Mean a Water Shortage?

Utah is known for having the “greatest snow on earth,” but it can’t always be relied on. So far this winter, many areas of northern Utah have received only about half the normal amount of snow.  Since most of the water we use in the state comes from snowfall, how will that affect the water outlook for 2012?

Statewide, the picture looks good, according to Brian McInerney, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City. Reservoirs are nearly full and soil saturation is high, so he foresees a good water supply for the coming year.

For WaterPro/Draper Irrigation, the picture is slightly different. Most of our mountain water supply comes from the mountains directly east of Draper, where snowfall so far is scarce. The company has no large reservoirs, so if mountain water runs short, we will need to buy water from other entities such as the Metropolitan Water District and Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District. This will mean that the company must pay higher costs to supply water to our customers.  In addition, if mountain water is scarce, the company will have to rely more heavily on lower-quality water from Utah Lake later in the irrigation season.