Low snow levels will lead to lower reservoirs

Snowpack percents drastically different than last year throughout the state

TRIAL LAKE, Utah (News4Utah) - Our snow pack numbers remain below average, even with the arrival of March winter storms. The state snow survey tracks snow totals at several different mountain locations in order to know what's in store for our spring runoff conditions. One of the most important locations is Trial Lake above Mirror Lake Highway.

News4Utah measured snow with hydrologists this week last year at this location and the numbers were close to breaking records at 110". This year, there was only about 45" in the same area.

"We have about 3 times less snow here than we did last year at the same time. Right now, the snowpack around here has about 12 inches of water in it. Last year, we were seeing 32 inches of water," Beau Uriona, a hydrologist with the state snow survey said.

Our worst year on record was 1977, and measurements are about double from that year right now. Last year, we had an abundance of snow and at this point, the winter of 2017-2018 is trying its best to go down in the record books. 

"Right now, we're looking at about, in the last decade, this is basically the worst year that we've had," Beau Uriona, a hyrdologist with the state snow survey said.

Trial Lake serves as the head waters of four major Northern Utah watersheds. It's the start off the Bear, Weber, Duchesne and Provo rivers. Measuring snow inches not only allows us to track snowfall, but weighing the snow sampler before and after the snow is inside, gives us the amount of water present in the snow. The water yield is important because it is a look at whether or not our reservoirs will completely fill. Our lower elevation snow has already melted off, and our middle elevations snow has started to move. We still have time to accumulate snow in the high country above 10,000 feet, but right now, everything seems ahead of schedule.

"What we will see is a really early melt out season. It will actually be easier for reservoir operators to manage the water coming into there reservoirs, but it's not going to be enough to fill them," Beau Uriona, a hydrologist with the state snow survey said.

Time has all but run out for the lower and mid elevations sites to rebound, but an active storm pattern will benefit areas above 9,000 ft. We would need to basically double the amount of water in the snow in about two months. Carryover from last year will prevent major water woes in the north, but we are setting up shop to be in a tough spot int he future. Why should you care? Pretty simple.

"Snow pack is basically the biggest reservoir we have in Utah We keep 80%, some estimates up to 90% of our water that we use in Utah comes from snow pack. A couple of bad years in a row like this could lead to some really big problems," Beau Uriona, a hydrologist with the state snow survey said.

For more information on our storm pattern, stay with Utah's Most Accurate forecast on News4Utah. The snow survey will measure twice more at Trial Lake. The beginning of April is typically when the melting season begins. 

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