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Front Page » March 18, 2010 » Carbon County News » Snow level not what it needs to be
Published 1,739 days ago

Snow level not what it needs to be


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While most residents of Carbon County don't think winter could end soon enough, many water officials wish it would last longer.

The reason? Snow depths in the watershed above Scofield and White River are much lower than they should be and that means less water this summer for irrigation and domestic use.

The winter got started late with the first real snows not coming until December and then the storms have been sporatic. In the valley around Price it seemed it snowed all winter and in some places the depths of snow were quite substantial for the elevation. However the problem is that in the mountains, the snow in many places is not much deeper than it was in the valley, and that is unusual.

Stream flow is important to water supplies in the west and most of that water throughout the summer season comes from snow melt.

Forecasting water supplies is always and iffy proposition. The NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) uses many factors in predicting what will happen or how the water situation will shape up.

The drop dead date for snow pack is April 1. If an area doesn't have at least its average snow depth by that time it almost probably won't reach it for that water year. Rains in the spring can help a lot because people use less water and agriculture can use less as well, but rain adds little to storage unless it is a deluge, and then that, in itself can cause problems.

Presently the Price area snowpack is betwen 70-80 percent according to SNOTEL, a mostly automated system for measuring snow depths.

In the past four month the state has been nearly split in half by the kinds of precipitation it has been getting. The northern part of the state has been well below average while the southern half has generally been way above snow totals.For instance the Bear River area has been running between 70-75 percent of normal while the Virgin River area has been at times at the 150 percent range.

But even worse for the north is the fact that the water equivalency ( the water content in the snow) is below those totals percentage wise. The Bear River area is in the 60 percent range while the Virgin River's totals are near 170 percent.

Price and surounding area are kind of at the edge of both extremes, but things are not in great shape for this summer season.

Another factor that affects runoff into reservoirs and storage areas is soil moisture content. Soil moisture is the moisture that is in the soil below the snow. In some years a rainy wet fall or a first big snowstorm that melts into the ground raises soil moisture. Then another storm comes along and kind of seals the water in with snow that doesn't melt but basically freezes. However, almost everywhere in the state neither of those events happened last fall or early winter. The soil was dry and snow that landed on top of it froze. The water content of the soil is therefore very low across most of the state. In fact a report by the NRCS released in February showed that the water content of the soil around the state was lower than anytime in the last six years, averaging at about only 30 percent.

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Carbon County News  
March 18, 2010
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