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Water outlook faltering, snow pack not increasing

The water outlook for all of Utah, and in particular for Castle Country, is looking down as the area heads into spring.

According Randy Julander of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, February was a carbon copy of January - cold and dry. There were few storms of note and long stretches of cold in between perpetuating the climate pattern established earlier in the winter.

"Snow packs are simply not increasing as they normally should so as a percent of median - they have declined," stated Julander in a report last week. "Anywhere from 10 to 40 percent since Jan. 1. The season that started off with a bang is going out with barely a whimper."

With only two weeks left in the snow accumulation season, there is little probability that northern Utah will get sufficient snow pack to bring current conditions back to normal. Southern Utah is in better shape with snow packs close to 90 percent of median.

Statewide the change in percentages over the past month are: Bear (-19 percent), Weber (-10 percent), Provo (-14 percent), Tooele (-16 percent), Northeastern Uintahs (-13 percent), Duchesne (-16 percent), Price/San Rafael (-10 percent), Dirty Devil (-7 percent), Southeastern Utah (-15 percent), Upper Sevier (-8), San Pitch (-5 percent), Lower Sevier (+5 percent), Beaver (-9 percent), Escalante (-17 percent) and Southwest Utah (-24 percent).

The NOAA Climate Prediction Center is forecasting warmer than normal temperatures and lower than normal precipitation for March through May. Soil moisture conditions are near normal for northern Utah and very dry in the south and southeast. Reservoir storage continues to incrementally improve as water managers are storing as much as possible but is nearly 20 percent less than last year. Surface Water Supply indices are mostly below average across the state. Overall, the water supply outlook is below average. Given the poor and declining current conditions coupled with the forecast potential of a dry spring - water users are advised to prepare accordingly.

February first snow packs as measured by the NRCS SNOTEL system range from 73 percent of

median on the Weber to 97 percent over the Tooele Valley. Northern Utah is in the 70 percent range while southern Utah is in the 90 percent range. Mountain precipitation during January was 49 percent of average which brings the seasonal accumulation (Oct-Feb) 82 percent of normal.

Soil Moisture is close to what it was last month, characteristic of winter trends. Very dry in southeast Utah at 21 percent of saturation and average to a little above in the remainder of the state.

Storage in 46 of Utah's key irrigation reservoirs is at 69 percent of capacity compared to 87 percent last year.

The snowpack in the Price and San Rafael Basins is below average at 81 percent of normal, compared to 68 percent last year. Precipitation in February was much below average at 59 percent, which brings the seasonal accumulation (Oct-Feb) to 85 percent of average. Soil moisture is at 37 percent compared to 56 percent last year. Reservoir storage is at 50 percent of capacity, compared to 78 percent last year.

The forecast for stream flow volumes range from 53 percent to 70 percent of average. The surface water supply index is 25 percent for the Price River, 23 percent for Joe's Valley, 17 percent for Ferron Creek.

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