Unseasonably early snowstorm had silver lining for drought

Photo by Will Feelright

CACHE COUNTY – Despite all the resulting fallen branches and power outages, the overnight snowstorm of Oct. 12 was just what the doctor ordered for Utah’s drought, according to Nathan Daugs, manager of the Cache Water District.

During a recent presentation to members of the Cache County Council, Daugs reported that the only encouraging note in the state’s water outlook is “… that soil moisture looks good.”

“Soil moisture is 8.5 percent above normal for this time of year,” Daugs said in late September. “That will be our only saving grace. The rainfall that we’ve received over the past four to six weeks … has saturated the soil pretty well.

“We’re also hoping for some storms in (early October) to increase soil moisture … That way, when the snowpack melts in the spring, that water will run off into our streams rather than just soaking into the soil.”

Daugs got his wish on Oct. 12, when an unseasonably early snowstorm pounded Cache Valley, snarling traffic and downing trees, branches and power lines.

But hydrologists are welcoming that same wet, heavy snow because that moisture will also end up in Cache Valley’s soil and ground water.

Current weather reports indicate that more rain and possibly snow are headed for northern Utah.

Daugs explains that precipitation is particularly critical for Cache Valley because this area has no major reservoirs to depend on for water storage.

Unlike water providers along the Wasatch Front, most of whom have multiple reservoirs to rely on, Cache Valley depends primarily on wells, springs, rivers and canals for its agricultural and domestic water needs.

“There’s just no back-up plan for Cache Valley,“ Daugs added. “We’ve got to just keep praying for rain.”

But the rest of Utah is also praying for normal winter weather to replenish its water supplies.

“We started the year 2020 with 56 percent of the state in a moderate drought, which wasn’t that critical a problem,” Daugs explained. “We started 2021 with 98 percent of the state in extreme drought.“

By fall, 55 percent of the largest 42 reservoirs were below 50 percent capacity.

“That’s fairly uncommon this time of the year, we don’t usually use that much of the water stored in our reservoirs,” Daugs observed. “The bigger ones in the state normally have multiple years’ water storage in them. But many of them are below 50 percent and some are below 25 percent.”

State officials report that 98 percent of the Utah’s measured streams are below their normal flow for this time of the year.

There are also 12 streams in the state right now that are as low as they have ever been.

Daugs said that one of those is the Logan River.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.