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Winter storms in Utah and their impact on reservoirs

By Nate Larsen,


( ABC4 ) –Utah is ahead of schedule with moisture received; over the weekend we recorded moisture levels that we don’t typically accumulate until early April. To be exact, we have hit 15.8 inches of snow water equivalent.

ABC4 meteorologist, Nate Larsen breaks down what this means for drought-stricken reservoirs, and why Utahns should care.

Think of the snowpack like you would a glass jar full of snow.  The snow water equivalent is the amount of water in the jar after you melt it down.  Normally it would take 10 inches of snow to produce an inch of water. However, Haskell said the storms over the weekend, it was only about 5″ of snow needed to get an inch of water.

“We had a couple of really good storms where it was really wet,” Haskell said, “if you were trying to shovel it was really awful”

The water Utah receives from snowpack, or SWE flows into its reservoirs. This means that the more SWE we have, the more we can bring the water levels up in its reservoirs.

However, according to Laura Haskell, Division of Water Resources Drought Coordinator, Utah is still seeing low capacity in its reservoirs. Haskell says we are sitting at around 49% capacity in our reservoirs, and typically, around this time of year, they’d be at 60%.

“We would love to have above-average snowpack,” Haskell said, “In order to bring the reservoirs up to where they would typically be this time of year we would need about as much water as is in Bear Lake.” Bear Lake holds roughly 1.4 million acre-feet of water.

Our statewide snowpack and water equivalent numbers are derived from 16 water basins, and almost all basins are averaging over 150% of normal for this time of year.

Haskell said she doesn’t think our reservoirs will return to 100% capacity this year, but that it is forecasted that Utah will have 110-130% of normal stream flows into the reservoirs.

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