Over 50% of Utah still in extreme drought even with above-average early-season snowpacks

UTAH — As snow lovers across the state celebrate the early season snowfall, the Utah Division of Water Resources reminds the public that the state snowpack doesn’t reach its highest point until April. There is still a long way to go in making up for drought conditions experienced across the state. Over 50% of Utah is in extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Most basins within Utah have seen below-normal precipitation for the three previous years, having a cumulative drought effect.

Mountain snowpacks affect far more than ski conditions throughout the year, as many rivers, streams, and other bodies of water rely on snowmelt to maintain normal levels. The extremely low water levels seen at Lake Powell are a prime example of the drought effect on lakes and reservoirs. Many species have taken a big hit from the years of drought and will take years to recover.

“Thirty-seven of the 47 reservoirs the division monitors are below 55%, which is about the same as last year but still about 9% lower than normal for this time of year. Of the 99 measured streams, 62 are currently flowing below normal,” according to the Utah Department of Natural Resources.

Some species, like the various trout populations across the state, receive help from the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources’ stocking efforts. Still, the drought has made things difficult for fish hatcheries with their ponds and fish runs. Trout require a high dissolved oxygen level, and low water levels equate to less availability. Even with fish-stocking supplementing areas, stresses on populations were still present.

The state might have the best start to a ski season in almost 20 years, but it’s going to take the entirety of a winter season to build up snowpacks and help restore habitats and water bodies from years of drought.

U.S. Drought Monitor showing current drought levels across Utah
U.S. Drought Monitor showing current drought levels across Utah; Courtesy of the USDA and National Drought Mitigation Center


Severe drought, shrinking groundwater supply creating issues for local hatcheries and anglers

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