Summer drought likely for Utah

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April showers usually bring May flowers.

But due to low reservoir supply early in the year and an early melt of snow banks, it looks as though decreased runoff levels will negatively impact the valley.

This photo from July 2012 shows the damage the drought last year caused to a crop typically full by this time. Reports say this year may be just as bad. (Photo by Whitnie Soelberg)
This photo from July 2012 shows the damage the drought caused last year to a crop typically full by this time. Reports say this year may be just as bad. (Photo by Whitnie Soelberg)

According to a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service report, the Western states are expected to undergo dry conditions throughout spring and summer.

According to the report, hydrologist Tom Perkins said, “What fell in the West didn’t really amount to much. … New Mexico, Utah and Colorado are especially vulnerable, because their reservoirs are at low levels due to sustained drought conditions.”

While there is still a chance more snow could fall, it doesn’t seem reasonable that enough would fall to make up for the potential drought.

Cory Maylett, communication program coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, doesn’t think the state is in good shape for the upcoming summer.

“It looks like the state precipitation averages for this year are below average. … We might be in for a dry year if we don’t get more rain,” he said.

The lack of rain and the fact that the snow hasn’t particularly come down hard, or stuck, mean an especially dry summer.

Randy Julander, snow survey supervisor at USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, said, “It’s kind of ugly. Our runoff is going to come really early, it’s going to be short, and we aren’t going to get a lot of it.”

He and other nature conservationists and biologists are worried about how it will affect local wildlife.

“There are a lot of people who don’t get their full allocation of water this year,” Julander said. “We’re not going to produce as many crops or as much cattle (as a result).”

According to Julander and wildlife biologists across the state, some animals at high elevations will be okay. There may not be as much vegetation for the animals to feed on, but if it stays warm and dry, we will most likely have another year like last year.

Some may be surprised to learn that 82 percent of water in Utah goes to agricultural production. Only 18 percent is for municipal and industrial use. This means there isn’t much citizens can do to help with the drought. Julander said it is always smart to conserve water in everyday use, but because citizens only have a small impact on states water supply, there isn’t one absolute answer. Being smart in conserving water helps just as much during times of drought as in times of flooding.

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