January’s dry winter weather has local water officials praying for six more weeks of snow, even as they prepare to open the season with below-average water supplies.
Though shortages vary from one end of the valley to the next, Tooele County’s moderate to severe drought conditions, as defined by the USDA-supported US Drought Monitor, continue to persist.
The drought has hit Tooele’s Settlement Canyon Reservoir particularly hard this winter. Snotel monitors above the canyon report a snow depth of 36 inches — just half of what is normal for the area this time of year, said Gary Bevan, president of the Settlement Canyon Irrigation Company.
If these conditions persist through spring, the company may have to open the season with water restrictions already in place.
“Right now we really need a wet rainy spring,” Bevan said. “Unless things change, we will probably have to start on some kind of restriction.”
The reservoir in Grantsville is in better shape, with snow pack in the mountains above the reservoir is currently at 90 percent of normal, said Lynn Taylor, watermaster for the Granstville Irrigation Company.
However, drought conditions persist even in those areas of the county that are at or near normal snow pack levels. Because the county started behind the curve after two years of drought, Tooele needed above-average precipitation to make up the difference.
“I wouldn’t be planting any new crops that take a lot of water,” Bevan said. “And it might not be the year to put in a new lawn.”
Tooele City itself is about one third of an inch behind on the 2013-2014 water year, according to numbers from Ned Bevan, a cooperative weather observer for the National Weather Service. This past month added about .93 inches of precipitation, just short of the 1.07 historic normal.
Temperatures throughout the month remained typical, with an average high of 40 degrees and average low of 22 degrees. Historically, normal temperatures for January ranged from 39.3 to 22.4 degrees, according to the Western Regional Climate Center.
In the face of this mild weather, Bevan said he has started to pray for storms. But he remains hopeful.
“I’ve seen storms come through that Rocky Basin [above Settlement Canyon] and put four feet of snow on the ground,” he said.