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Water worries, unlike water itself, rising in southern Utah

Published May 8, 2014 10:34 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Southern Utah continues to get the short end of the water stick.

After a strong start in the first few months of the water year (which begins Oct. 1), the state's southern reaches have seen limited precipitation.

With snowpack all but gone and stream flows likely at their highest — or already peaked — levels, wildland firefighters, livestock operators and state wildlife biologists are bracing for a long, hot summer.

The Utah Water Supply Outlook Report for April prepared by the Natural Resources Conservation Service was released Wednesday and the numbers are ominous.

• Flow figures on southwestern Utah's Virgin River at Virgin are at 29 percent of normal and "it's all downhill from here," reads the report.

• Snowpack figures as of May 1 are 23 percent of normal for southwest Utah; 27 percent for southeast Utah and 45 percent for south-central's upper Sevier.

• The water left in the remaining snow in four areas has not reached into the 30 percent of normal range: Dirty Devil, 22 percent; southwestern Utah, 23 percent; southeastern Utah, 27 percent; and lower Sevier River, 29 percent.

• Precipitation since Oct. 1 is at 53 percent in southwest Utah and 67 percent in southeastern Utah.

"Northern Utah is still doing relatively well," wrote Randy Julander, Utah's snow survey supervisor. "Conditions from Highway 6 south are deteriorating quickly. South of Interstate 70 conditions are extremely poor."

Despite the low numbers in the south, the statewide average numbers range to the more comfortable side. Snowpack across Utah was 83 percent of normal, precipitation in April was 76 percent of normal and soil moisture was at 77 percent.

"Water users with reservoir storage may have short supplies this year across much of the state," according to the report, "and those reliant on direct stream flow will experience shortages."

brettp@sltrib.com

Twitter: @BrettPrettyman