City Public Utilities Director Jeff Niermeyer said his agency retained more water in its reservoirs last summer "in the event of another year of below-average snow," leaving the city's current water supply at 90 percent of normal.
Good thing. Snowpack numbers are rather bleak, so the runoff will not add much to water levels.
According to the National Weather Service website, a monitoring station at Snowbird, where snowpack normally has 41 inches of water in mid-April, had just under 21 inches Monday — its second driest year in the past 25.
In Big Cottonwood Canyon, a major source of Salt Lake City's water supply, the Brighton monitoring gauge was the driest it's been in 29 years. It measured 6.3 inches of water in the snowpack, 27 percent of normal (21 inches). Another station at Mill D North was at just 11 percent of normal, its driest winter in 27 years.
"This year's snow levels," Niermeyer said, "mean it is important to maintain that goal of reserving water for future need, should this pattern of low snowfall and runoff continue into next year."
Steve Erickson, the Utah Audubon Council's legislative advocate, called the city's advisory "an appropriate move to get people's attention. It's been a grim winter. We're likely to see this get worse so people need to start thinking about how they can conserve water — not just in Salt Lake City but around the state.
"Drier is going to be the new normal," he added, "and if we don't have better winters than this last one, it will become a significant problem for the state that will require some sacrifices from all quarters. Longer term, we're concerned in particular about the levels of the Great Salt Lake reaching a historic low soon. That ain't good."
To save water, Niermeyer's office recommends residents:
• Check sprinklers for broken or misaligned spray heads.
• Get a free sprinkler check by calling 1-877-728-3420.
• Find information on landscaping and water-saving tips at slcgardenwise.com.
• Promptly repair any leaking indoor faucets or fixtures.