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Scofield less than half full, water watchers getting a little nervous

Sun Advocate publisher

A lot of precipitation at the end of December really brought hopes up that this year might be a banner year for snow and moisture in the Price River basin.

Unfortunately, January numbers were not very good when it came to either, so with two months to go, hopes are still high for a wet February and March.

Storms in the western region generally skirted the Price basin and what did come down came in small amounts. Still even with so little snowfall in January, the area is close to average in overall precipitation since Oct. 1, 2012 when the water year began.

The Feb. 1 Natural Resources Conservation Service snow and moisture report was just released, and the state overall is much like this area: about average.

At present snowpack in eastern Utah basins is at 91 percent of normal as compared with only 60 percent last year at this time. Precipitation in January was only 69 percent of normal. Soil moisture, which helps determine how much water runs off into streams when it starts to warm up, is at only 37 percent. It was 53 percent last year on Feb. 1.

The heavy use of water last summer also has contributed to much lower reservoir storage this year. Despite most of the reservoirs being at their brim at the end of the runoff season last year, the water in them shrunk dramatically by the fall. Presently those facilities in the central eastern part of the state only have 49 percent of their capacity, compared to 77 percent last year at this same time.

The reports says that with the present snow on the ground it would be expected that runoffs in streams this spring would range between 62 to 80 percent of normal if things don't change.

The trend as the water year goes on has not been good, Charts in the report show that out of the four months since the start of the water year only one month, October, was at normal. All the other months were below normal.

"Statewide, January was exceptionally cold," Randy Julander of the NRCS wrote in the report. "Extreme cold and frequent storms do not normally match up well and this month was no exception. The state had essentially two stormy periods, one at the beginning of the month and one at the end with nothing but bitter cold in between. As the saying goes, there was nothing protecting us from the brutally cold north arctic air but a barb wire fence and it had two wires broken."

While the state was not melting any snow it should have been steadily accumulating more during January. Over the last month snow totals have decreased with the following areas seeing the percentage decreases listed after them: Bear (-21%), Weber (-12%), Provo (-23%), Tooele (-10%), Northeastern Uintahs (-10%), Duchesne (-24%), Price/San Rafael (-18%), Dirty Devil (-4%), Southeastern Utah (-

2%), San Pitch (-5%), Lower Sevier (-3%), Beaver (-4%), and Southwest Utah (-22%). The Escalante drainage actually showed a 7 percent gain while the Upper Sevier saw no change at all.

Statewide, Feb. 1 snow packs as measured by the NRCS SNOTEL system range from 83 percent of median on the Weber to 114 percent over the Tooele Valley. Most areas are in the 90-100 percent of median range.

Overall mountain precipitation during January was 69 percent of average which brings the seasonal accumulation (Oct-Jan) 90 percent of normal statewide.

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