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Reservoirs hit 20-year low in drought

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 - Utah) Utah’s reservoirs are at their lowest level in 20 years, but our drought has less to do with the dry, hot summer and more to do with winter and spring.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 - Utah) Utah’s reservoirs are at their lowest level in 20 years, but our drought has less to do with the dry, hot summer and more to do with winter and spring.

The conservation garden at the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District shows how a garden can use minimal water, and not look like a desert.

“Nowhere in here can you see much gravel or cactus,” said Tage Flint, manager at the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District. “What you see is a lot of greenery, a lot of foliage. [It’s] one of the examples of what you can have and still use a whole lot less water.”

An important lesson for Utahns, because 67-70% of all water taken from reservoirs are used to water lawns and gardens. When you factor in the heat, Flint says the reservoirs are down to 37%.

“Our reservoirs have gone down amazingly fast,” said Flint.

“We're in a drought, officially,” said Brian McInerney, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.

While the heat has Utahns using more water on their lawns, the real problem is in the mountains.

“When we talk about drought, the big question is how did you do with multiple years of spring snowmelt,” said McInerney

That question is crucial because 90% of the reservoirs are filled by snowmelt, and the last two years.

“It's the multi-year droughts that really hurt us,” said Flint.

“You can have a below average year and still not be in a drought,” said McInerney. “But if you put together 2, 3, 4 years and beyond, that drought category looks worse and worse.”

There is some good news: the rain in southwest Utah has helped. Utah upgraded a drought category in the third week of August thanks to monsoonal showers.

“All together, southern Utah has done a little better than northern Utah,” said McInerney.

But all eyes are on next year.

“We're there, as far as being worried about next year,” said Flint. “This year we're going to be fine.”

The weather this winter and spring will be crucial to getting us back to normal levels. If 2014 is anything like the last 2 years, Utah could be looking at worse, or even extreme conditions next summer.

Flint says to reset your sprinkler clocks going into September. “Many of us keep our sprinkler clocks on the July setting even though in September days are shorter, nights are cooler and really the landscape does not need that much water,” said Flint. “So we're really encouraging people to cut their clocks way back at this point.”

For more information on conserving water visit: http://weberbasin.com/

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