Utah sitting pretty with snowpack


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February snapped Utah’s eight-year dry spell like a dry twig, and these latest rounds of storms in March propelled every single hydrologic basin into star-studded snowpack performances.

“We can’t complain,” said Ron Thompson, general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District.

Last year, the Dixie region sat at 40 percent of normal for precipitation, with agricultural producers enduring cutbacks and a shortened growing season. The Virgin River was a trickle.

This year?

The Virgin River Basin is doing swimmingly, sitting at 175 percent, with Thompson now looking to the skies for possible rain-on-snow events that could bring flooding.

Southeastern Utah, which was also parched last year, has a snowpack at 158 percent of normal.

“We are really happy to see those types of numbers compared to last year,” said Cody Moser, senior hydrologist with the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center.

Moser said the Colorado River was at 108 percent of average at Cisco on March 1 and within the region, the Dolores River Basin was at 180 percent of median and Gunnison was at 145.

Along the Wasatch Front, the Ogden-Weber Basin hovers at 131 percent of average, while Jordan-Provo sits at 140.

There remains another month to go for official water accumulation season in which snowpack could continue to pile up, and Utah is well-known for getting dustings of snow into May.

In 2011, record snowpack and rain-on-snow events caused widespread flooding throughout northern Utah, leading to emergency disaster declarations and millions of dollars in damages.

Since then, Utah resumed its drought, with dwindling reservoirs, drying farm fields and residential watering restrictions.

Water managers are hopeful this year is one of those years where there is enough water to replenish supplies but not enough for flooding.

The next few months, Thompson said, will tell.

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