Water Authorities Assess Snowpack Situation, Flooding Potential Statewide

Apr 9, 2019, 6:52 PM | Updated: 7:34 pm

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah —  As the storm picked up today, water managers and hydrologists got together to talk about Utah’s phenomenal snowpack and what it means for our water resources, and even flooding, this spring.

In spite of the persistent drought that gripped Utah last fall, the water situation statewide is very good. Water managers are even releasing some of the runoff.

At high elevation, today’s storm is still adding to the snowpack. That will help fill reservoirs, but also raise the possibility of flooding.

“We’re in really good shape water wise for Utah,” said Brian McInerney, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.

Right now, Utah has twice as much snow as it did last year—one of the three best water years in the past decade. Statewide, snowpack is 140% of normal, ranging from 100% to more than 190%.

Just last fall, Utah’s water situation was dire.

“It was the worst water year on record, and we were all very nervous—hoping for a good snow pack to replenish the reservoirs, and it looks like we got that snowpack,” said Troy Brosten, a hydrologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The hydrologists agree there is enough water in the snowpack to re-charge nearly every reservoir across the state, with the exception of Strawberry Reservoir and Lake Powell, Which will come up to about 40% by midsummer.

“That means we could have some flooding due to spring snowmelt runoff,” said McInerney, “and we don’t want to see that.”

Deep snowpack and late spring melt-offs are good for reservoir storage, but can also lead to flooding.

“If we continue to add to the snowpack through April and into the first or second week of May, we could have some problems with the infrastructure: roads, bridges, some of the houses that are close to the rivers.”

Water managers are expecting so much runoff in Pineview, Scofield and East Canyon Reservoirs, they’re releasing water now to make room for runoff.

“We’re going to have to let a little bit of water out. We even have excess coming in in some places,” said Gary Henrie, Bureau of Reclamation Civil Engineer.

They will release at other reservoirs, if necessary. Using dams to store water and control flooding.

“Take the peak off some of the high runoff that we see and pass it safely down stream,” said Henrie.

Peak flows from high elevation run-off will pick up in May and carry into June and July. Whenever you’re near the water, keep a close eye on kids because the run-off can be deadly.

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Water Authorities Assess Snowpack Situation, Flooding Potential Statewide