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Spring Rain Helping the Drought?

Spring Rain Helping the Drought?

Posted - May 9, 2003 at 6:45 p.m.



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John Daley Reporting...With the rainstorms we've been getting in many parts of Utah, we can only wonder how they'll help us deal with the drought.

The answer? It's a good thing, but we need a whole lot more. The bottom line, say hydrologists -- a few weeks of rain do not a drought-breaker make. One sure sign is in the runoff we're seeing in canyon creeks.

Consider this picture -- from May of 1999. Whenever we get a solid amount of snowfall in the winter it leads to a fairly deep snowpack and fast-moving and somewhat deep water running through our canyons in the spring.

But this year a look at our canyon runoff shows even with the rain we're getting the water is NOT roaring through. Instead it's just a ripple.

Runoffs in northern Utah are well below normal. Hydrologists from the U.S. Geological Survey have found the lowest stream flows in nearly 100 years in parts of the Colorado, Green, Virgin and San Juan Rivers.

Brian McInerney/Hydrologist, National Weather Service: "IF YOU LOOK AT IT JUST AS FAR AS HOW MUCH WATER FROM THE SKY DO WE NEED TO BRING UP OUR NUMBERS SO WE CAN SAY WE'RE NEAR NORMAL CONDITIONS. IT NEEDS TO RAIN ABOUT AN INCH A DAY FOR ABOUT TWO WEEKS. NOW IS THAT GOING TO HAPPEN? MOST LIKELY NOT UNLESS WE BREAK SOME RECORDS AROUND HERE."

Overall the past year, precipitation for Utah on a statewide average, is only roughly 50 to 55% of normal. And, perhaps contrary to popular perception, rainfall on the Wasatch was 75% of normal for April.

Brian McInerney/Hydrologist, National Weather Service: "I THINK WE JUST GET SO USED TO DRY CONDITIONS IN THE SPRING THAT ANY RAIN WE DO GET WE THINK THIS IS GREAT, THE DROUGHT IS OVER, BUT IN FACT WE'RE EVEN BELOW ON APRIL'S RAINFALL."

So consider the recent rains no drought-buster -- more a decent drink.

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