Typically Snowpack in Utah reaches a peak around April 1st and is then reduced through April and May as warmer weather sets in. Consequently, April 1st is used as a benchmark date to estimate runoff and water supply for the upcoming summer season. The winter months of the 2012 water year have been much drier and warmer than normal throughout the state of Utah. Most of the State’s basin-wide April 1st snowpack totals range from about 40% to 50% of average. However, in the state’s drier regions, such as San Juan County in Utah’s southeastern corner current snowpack is less than 25% of average with some snotel stations already registering - no remaining snowpack. Normally April 1st snowpack figures ranging from 25 to 50 percent of average would be quite alarming. As it turns out the 2011 spring and early summer’s weather pattern is playing a huge role in this year water supply outlook.
The 2011 spring was much wetter and cooler than normal. Although snowpack on April 1st 2011 was very close to average, cool wet weather persisted through April, May, and into June. In addition to dramatically increasing the runoff into Utah’s reservoirs the wet conditions meant that farmers did not need to call upon stored water until late in the summer. Consequently, nearly all of Utah’s reservoirs filled by the 1st of July and remained very close to full through the end of the 2011 irrigation season. Utah’s carry-over storage this past year was a record high. So much water is in Utah’s reservoirs that there has been a need to release water from some reservoirs in anticipation of this year runoff, despite the fact that this year’s runoff will be well below normal.
With storage in Utah’s reservoirs currently at about 90% of capacity, it is anticipated that virtually all of Utah’s reservoirs will fill. Consequently, water supply should not be an issue anywhere in the state, except for the state’s few irrigators who, having no reservoir storage, must rely solely upon stream flow. Another exception is in the upper Sevier where Panguitch Lake will not be allowed to fill because of repair work being performed on the outlet works.