Snow water equivalent measurements at Snotel sites above Tooele Valley and the West Desert were at 33 percent of normal at the end of 2017, according to the latest Utah Water Supply Outlook Report published by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“Wow, what a crummy way to start the 2018 water year,” said Randy Julander, former Snow Survey Supervisor for NRCS.
Julander retired this month after writing the Utah Water Supply Outlook Report for 27 years.
“Basically the entire state has far below normal conditions with only a remote chance of getting back to average,” Julander said. “Every day that goes by without a storm puts us deeper in the hole with less probability of recovery. Water managers should be developing strategies to deal with streamflows that could reach record low levels.”
The snow water equivalent at the Mining Fork Snotel site in the Stansbury Mountains measured 3.6 inches for 53 percent of normal as of Tuesday morning. The Snotel site at Rocky Basin in Settlement Canyon measured 2.6 inches for 27 percent of normal. Bevans Cabin measured 1.9 inches. A percent of normal measurement for Bevan’s Cabin is not available because the SnoTel site was installed about five years ago.
What a difference a year can make.
Snowfall in December 2016 for Tooele City measured 18.5 inches. That total dropped by 10 inches this year to 8.5 inches of snow for December 2017, according to Ned Bevan, Tooele weather observer for the National Weather Service.
Normal snowfall for Tooele in December is 16.9 inches.
Precipitation followed the same dry pattern with 0.65 inches of precipitation for December 2017 compared to 2.32 inches of precipitation back in December 2016. Normal precipitation for December in Tooele is 1.48 inches.
Normal total precipitation for Tooele for the water year at the end of December is 4.98 inches. This year the total for the water year after December was 1.83 inches. The water year begins on Oct. 1 and ends on Sept. 30.
Total snowfall for the water year by Dec. 31 for Tooele was 9 inches compared to normal snowfall for the year ending Dec. 31 at 30.8 inches.
Current Snow Survey Supervisor Troy Brosten said storage at Grantsville Reservoir is currently at 1,000 acre-feet of water compared to the reservoir’s capacity of 3,300 acre feet. Settlement Canyon Reservoir storage is at 300 acre-feet of water compared to the reservoir’s capacity of 1,000 acre-feet of water.
“It’s typical at this time of year to have low reservoir storage due to the drawdown from last summer and before the runoff period from snowmelt this year,” Brosten said.
He said the latest drought monitor report had Tooele County at abnormally dry to the west and moderate dry to the east.
Julander’s report indicated that reservoir storage in northern Utah is actually higher at this time of the year than it was last year because of above average precipitation from November 2016 through April 2017.
Precipitation was 117 percent of average in November 2016 and 116 percent of average in December 2016.
Tooele Valley was pounded with moisture in January 2017 with 186 percent of average precipitation recorded.
February also was good at 145 percent of average precipitation. March came in at 111 percent and April at 116 percent.
Four dry months followed with 48 percent of average in May, 17 percent in June, 73 percent in July and 86 percent in August.
The 147 percent of average precipitation in September capped off the water year on a positive note.