New Water Year Begins

New Water Year Begins

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah marked a new water year Saturday hoping for more of the precipitation that last winter brought.

Utah and the Wasatch Front were drenched with enough rain and snow to refill most of the state's major reservoirs and bring at least a temporary halt to what had been a nearly six-year drought.

The trend can mean one of two things.

"It's either a very good mark of coming out of a drought cycle, or it's a rare anomaly in the middle of a larger drought," said Tage Flint, executive director of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, which manages most of the water in the Ogden and Weber river drainages.

Forecasters had indications last year that a wetter water year might be forthcoming because of the presence of an El Nino warming in the central Pacific that usually heralds more precipitation. There is no indication of an El Nino or its opposite this time around, however.

"All the indicators are neutral right now, so our ability to forecast long-range is weak," said National Weather Service hydrologist Brian McInerney. "But there are ways to look at it. If we look at this from a cyclical standpoint, we may be in a wetter pattern."

If nothing else, he added, the 2004-'05 water year broke the drought's stranglehold. Southern, western and northeastern Utah received record, or near-record rain and snowfall, while the rest of the state was at least slightly above average. That precipitation refilled virtually every major reservoir, save Lake Powell and Bear Lake, and led to spring flooding around the state.

Given the recent historical record, McInerney is at least hopeful that the wetter pattern will continue.

"In the early- and mid-1980s we were wet, in the late '80s and early '90s we were dry, the mid-'90s were wetter, then from the late '90s to 2004 we were very dry," he said. "So if you look at this as a pattern, maybe -- just maybe -- we're headed for a cooler, wetter winter."

McInerney says another way to at least guess about the upcoming water year is by looking at the previous summer. The summers between 2000 and 2003 were hot and dry, a trend that ended when the summer of 2004 brought cooler than normal temperatures with normal precipitation.

This past summer, with some exceptions, offered up more of the same.

"June was much cooler and wetter than normal," McInerney said. "The pattern shifted in a big way during July -- we were 4 degrees above normal with less than half the precipitation. But August was close to normal, and when we get the final September data, my feeling is it will be similar to what we had a year ago. So again, that could mean a wetter year with more runoff. But again, that's only if you're looking at trends," he said.


Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune,

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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