Effects Of Unseasonably Dry Winter To Be Felt Acutely This Summer

Jan 24, 2014

It has been a dry winter so far for Utah, and new data from the precipitation measuring system SNOTEL confirms that the state, and much of the West, is in for a dry year.

SNOTEL collects precipitation data from around the state to help with water management.
Credit Natural Resource Conservation Service

Federally run SNOTEL sensors are distributed around the state. They take measurements on things like snow depth and soil moisture levels, which can be used to help water managers decide how to allocate water.

Randy Julander from the Natural Resource Conservation Service said Northern Utah precipitation levels are currently 70 to 80 percent of average. Southern Utah has dropped from being well above normal in early December to around 60 percent of average for this time of year.

Julander explains the effects of long term drought in terms of finances.

“Reservoir storage is your savings that you have in the bank to help you through, and your stream flow is what your income is,” Julander said. “When you add the two of them together, the picture isn’t that rosy because we’ve depleted our savings and we’re not getting that much coming though.”

Compared to the rest of the West, Utah is looking downright wet, however. Julander said California, Nevada and Oregon are at only 10 to 30 percent of their water average.

Julander said California’s Central Valley, which grows much of the nation’s produce, will have almost no mountain runoff this spring.

“There’s going to be less water for vegetables such as tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower; you’re likely to see the cost of those food stuffs increase substantially,” Julander said.

Julander’s suggestion to beat the drought-related high prices? Plant a garden.