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Hydrologist Says Drought May End Soon

Hydrologist Says Drought May End Soon

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LOGAN, Utah (AP) -- Utah is in the fifth year of drought, but that is the length of an average drought cycle for the area and this one may end sometime soon, said state hydrologist Brian McInerney.

"What we're in right now is most likely temporary," McInerney said. "Every four to five years, there is generally a shift from wet to dry or dry to wet."

"We are probably coming out of this," McInerney said. "The longer this lasts, the greater chance we're going to get out of it."

The longest drought in Utah history was 1895 to 1907, McInerney said, but a 12-year cycle is unusual and present conditions shouldn't last long.

Retired Utah State University climatologist Don Jensen said that although the average drought cycle in Utah is four to five years, that does not necessarily mean the current drought will be ending anytime soon.

"You really don't know until it starts to rain again if the drought will end," Jensen said.

Jensen said that although present conditions are of some concern, Cache Valley has seen some significant periods of drought in the recent past. Some have said that the drought is the worst in a century, but he said that is not true.

"We are in an exceptional drought but not the worst drought in 100 years," Jensen said. "Several droughts have lasted longer or were worse."

The drought from 1987 to 1992 was much worse, Jensen said. People may not have realized it at the time, he said, because it was preceded by "the wet spell" from 1982 to 1986.

McInerney said conservation is important but that Cache Valley residents don't need to panic when it comes to regular water usage.

"A lot of people think we're running out of water to take showers and get drinks," McInerney said. "The truth is we have enough water to get by."

Many reservoirs in the state still have an adequate supply of water, he said.

"Yes, our precipitation is below average, soil moisture and snowpacks are well below average ... but our saving grace is our reservoirs," he said. "Our reservoirs are designed to hold us through periods like this."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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