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Flooding Doesn't Mean Drought's Over

Flooding Doesn't Mean Drought's Over

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John Daley reporting In light of the flooding, it's easy to assume the end of our drought has arrived. Not so fast, say the water experts.

It's way to soon to tell what this means for the drought. The soil is moist--that's good. The streams are running high in places--that's good. The snow pack is building--that's good. But--it's only January.

In the weather world, it's been one "gee whiz" event after another. Southern Utah's storms sent so much water rocking and rolling through the rivers that some water gauges, which measure stream flows, actually failed.

On the Virgin River one gauge which was working, recorded water flowing at 25-thousand cubic feet a second--a thousand times the normal.

But for more than half a decade now it's been the opposite...drought conditions so extreme that even huge reservoirs like Lake Powell are in danger of drying up.

LeRoy Hooton/ Director, Department of Public Utilities: "As we went into the water year our reservoirs were only about 32 percent of capacity. So it's going to take a lot of snow and precipitation and run off to build the state's reservoirs back up."

According to the National Weather Service, snowpack in drainages in northern Utah are in the range of 150 to 180 percent of normal. Down south, drainages are at 350 to 400 percent of normal.

Brian McInerney/ Hydrologist, National Weather Service: "Early October we essentially had dry reservoirs across the board in southern Utah. As of mid-January we've filled a lot of the medium and small reservoirs. Large reservoirs will take multiple years to fill."

With normal spring runoff, it will take 12 and half years--until the year 2017-- to refill Lake Powell. With 130% of normal stream flows, refilling Powell would still take three and a half years.

So, all the recent moisture helps, but...

Brian McInerney/ Hydrologist/National Weather Service: "Maybe a dent in the water supply picture. But we'll still have to wait and see."

Water watchers want us all to remember last year when a solid snowpack was wiped out by a very warm March.

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