April was wetter, but water outlook not much improved
While the snowpack in the Castle Valley watershed is a lot better than last year, that is not saying much.
According to a report released by the Natural Resources Conservation Service late last week the snowpack in the Price and San Rafael Basins is much below average at 55 percent of normal. When compared to the 1 percent it was standing at last year on May 1, that is much better, but still not very good.
Precipitation in the area in April was near average at 105 percent, which brings the seasonal accumulation (Oct-Apr) to 80 percent of average. Soil moisture, however, is down this year at 76 percent compared to 90 percent at this time last year.
Reservoir storage in the area is at 49 percent of capacity. Last year on May 1 it was 83 percent. While last year was a terrible winter for snowfall accumulation and precipitation, the winter before had boosted the reservoirs to the point where they were at fairly high levels. But the hot summer and long growing season in 2012 took away a lot of that overage and thus this year storage is down.
The forecast streamflow volumes range from 41 percent to 62 percent of average, depending on where the water way is located.
Statewide things are better in some places and worse in others. However the April rain and snow did help.
"April was the month we wished we had for January, February and March," stated Randy Julander of the NRCS in the report. "It fished half of the state from the fire back into the frying pan and we are glad for that little bit of improvement over what has been a very dry winter. Cool and wet are a welcome respite from cold and dry..."
While northern Utah had a great April, southern Utah and particularly the southeastern part of the state, remained squarely in the fire, according to Julander. Snow packs in those areas are nearly gone or going fast.
"The only positive here is that at least it's not last year where snow packs in the southeast melted out three weeks earlier than this year," he stated. "Snow packs are basically (already) melted out on the Escalante, Dirty Devil, and southeast Utah."
Snow packs in northern Utah are mostly in the 65 to 85 percent range with a few areas higher. April precipitation was average to much above average (100 to 135 percent) over northern Utah and below to near average over southern Utah (65 to 95 percent), which brings the year to date precipitation to below the normal statewide average at 81 percent.
Reservoir storage statewide is currently at 73 percent of capacity which is18 percent less than last year at this time. Water users with reservoir storage may have short supplies this year and those reliant on direct stream flow will experience shortages.
General runoff conditions are extremely poor in southeastern Utah and generally poor for the remainder of the state. May-July stream flow forecasts range from 11 percent for the White River below Tabbyune Creek to 59 percent of average for Lakefork above Moon Lake.
May 1 snowpacks as measured by the NRCS SNOTEL system are as follows: Bear - 80 percent, Weber - 70 percent, Provo - 66 percent, Duchesne - 86 percent, Price - 54 percent, southeast Utah - 9 percent, upper Sevier - 69 percent, San Pitch - 65 percent and southwest Utah - 41 percent. The statewide figure is 74 percent of average.
Most watersheds will have melted out this month or in early June.