Drought Persists Despite Summer Precipitation

Aug 13, 2014

Despite recent precipitation, scientists say Utah is still experiencing drought conditions.

Brian McInerney, hydrologist for the National Weather Service, said the amount of precipitation that has fallen does not mitigate how much the state is lacking in its reservoirs.

“When we have the snowpacks, an average snowpack melting, we get an inch a day coming out of the mountains, and that lasts for about six weeks,” McInerney said. “The rainfall we’re getting now is maybe thirty-five hundredths, a half-inch, a quarter-inch over three days, four days.”

The state has experienced three consecutive years of below-average runoff for the great basin, according to McInerney. However, he said that compared to states like California, a majority of Utah is experiencing only mild drought.

“They start from D-0 up to D-4, and we’re at D-1,” McInerney said. “The lowest level of drought is in D-0, and California is in D-4.”

McInerney said just one year of a strong spring snowpack runoff could completely replenish Utah’s reservoirs and alleviate the state’s drought situation. 

Areas of the state vary in drought severity, with southwestern Utah experiencing a D-2 level “severe” drought, while parts of northern Utah, including Cache Valley, have no drought at all.

Though summer rainfall may not be saving the state from drought, McInerney said it does have positive qualities such as preserving water resources by cooling reservoirs and fire prevention.