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Water levels are sinking to dangerously low levels at Utah reservoirs and lakes

The state needs 15 inches of rain by Sept 30 — three times normal — just to catch up.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Great Salt Lake pictured July 11, 2021. Utah's lakes and reservoirs continue to drop amid the state's extreme drought.

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Utah’s drought is bad and getting worse, and the state has begun drawing on water reserves from previous years. The water levels at the state’s reservoirs and lakes is lower now than it was in October 2020, the end of the previous water year.

That includes Deer Creek, Jordanelle, Pineview, Rockport, Sand Hollow, Strawberry and Willard Bay. And there are three months remaining in the irrigation season — months when water use is at its peak.

“We are no longer pulling water stored from this year’s runoff. Instead, we’re relying on water that has been stored in our reservoirs during previous years,” said Brian Steed, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources.

The average level of Utah’s reservoirs and lakes is 58% of normal — down 1% from last week. Through the past nine months, the state’s precipitation is about 38% below average. The state normally gets 27 inches of rain; it has received about 17 with less than three months remaining in the water year.

In order to catch up to an average water year, Utah needs 15 inches of rain by the end of September — the 5 inches Utah usually gets in July, August and September, and 10 inches to make up the deficit.

The Division of Natural Resources also reported:

• 77 of 98 streams the DNR monitors are running below normal. That’s 12 more than last week.

• 15 streams are running at their lowest levels ever recorded. That’s up six from last week.

• Air temperatures across Utah averaged 5.5 degrees higher than normal.

Great Salt Lake

According to DNR, the Great Salt Lake hit its all-time high of 4211.65 feet in 1986. It was at its average, 4202.2 feet‚ in 2000.

It’s now at 4191.6 feet — and it’s expected to dip below the lowest recorded level (4,191.4 feet in 1963) before the end of July.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mike Shannon paddles his board through the narrow channel that remains out of the Great Salt Lake Marina on Saturday, July 10, 2021, as he sticks to the sailboat corridor since he has found himself hitting the bottom of the lake more frequently despite his shallow keel that is only a few inches deep.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Boats no longer able to leave the Great Salt Lake Marina due to extremely low water conditions, are removed and placed in dry dock as seen on Friday, July 9, 2021.

Utah lake and reservoir levels — week of July 12

Currant Creek • 97%

Flaming Gorge • 83%

Strawberry • 78%

Starvation • 77%

Causey • 75%

Quail Creek • 72%

Sand Hollow • 72%

Deer Creek • 68%

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The eastern finger of Deer Creek Reservoir continues to recede as Main Creek becomes a narrow ribbon of water during extreme drought conditions on Monday, July 12, 2021.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) People take to the water at Deer Creek Reservoir as the beach line continues to drop on Monday, July 12, 2021.

(Isaac Hale | Special to The Tribune) People recreate on the shore of Deer Creek Island Resort at Deer Creek Reservoir near Charleston on Thursday, June 17, 2021.

Jordanelle • 68%

(Ed Kosmicki | Special to The Tribune) The shoreline of the Jordanelle Reservoir is a lot lower than it used to be after several years of drought. Marker buoys that once stretched across this beach cover a fraction of the water they once used to and watercraft rental customers have to walk much further from the parking areas to the waterline, June 9, 2021.

Panguitch Lake • 64%

East Canyon • 62%

Utah Lake • 61%

(Isaac Hale | Special to The Tribune) Waves break on the shoreline of Utah Lake near the American Fork Boat Harbor on Thursday, June 17, 2021.

Lost Creek • 59%

Bear Lake • 57%

Red Fleet • 56%

Smith and Morehouse • 56%

Joe’s Valley • 52%

Willard Bay • 52%

Hyrum • 48%

State Line • 46%

Grantsville • 45%

Gunlock • 43%

Scofield • 39%

Porcupine • 38%

Pineview • 37%

(Paighten Harkins | The Salt Lake Tribune) The view of Pineview Reservoir on the hike up to Sardine Peak.

(Briana Scroggins | Special to The Tribune) Pineview Reservoir is considerably lower than it was this time last year on Wednesday, June 9, 2021.

(Briana Scroggins | Special to The Tribune) Devonte Davis, a junior at the University of Utah, and Money Parks, a sophomore at the University of Utah, walk down the beach at Pineview Reservoir on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Pineview Reservoir is considerably lower than it was this time last year.

Rockport • 36%

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rockport Reservoir drops to 36% of capacity during extreme drought conditions on Monday, July 12, 2021.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) People recreate on the water that remains at Rockport Reservoir as severe drought conditions continue to reveal an ever expanding beach on Monday, June 21, 2021.

Huntington North • 35%

Lake Powell • 34%

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) A houseboat on Lake Powell, seen on Tuesday, May 18, 2021, highlights the 140-foot difference between today's lake level and the lake's high-water mark.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Abandoned bouy's that used to protect the "Three Roof Ruin" from boaters during high water, sit at the bottom of the Escalante River, in Glen Canyon, on Monday, May 17, 2021.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Iceberg Canyon, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021.

Echo • 28%

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Echo Reservoir drops to 28% of capacity during extreme drought conditions on Monday, July 12, 2021.

Millsite • 28%

Otter Creek • 24%

Minersville • 20%

Settlement Creek • 19%

Lower Enterprise • 16%

Steinaker • 16%

Sevier Bridge • 15%

Woodruff Narrows • 13%

Moon Lake • 12%

Upper Enterprise • 9%

Piute • 8%

Woodruff Creek • 0%

Gunnison • 0%



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