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Thunderstorms doing little for Utah’s woeful spring runoff

(Mark Wetzel/KSL-TV)


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SALT LAKE CITY — As the soaking rains arrived Monday, it was easy to forget just how little spring runoff is coming from Utah's mountain snowpack.

Big and Little Cottonwood creeks should be raging, but they're not; and water experts say afternoon storms are the best-case scenario right now.

"It's something that we hope for — but, really, it's too little too late," said Brian McInerney, hydrologist with the National Weather Service. "This really didn't help us at all.”

At this stage in the snowmelt, McInerney said a storm like the one that hit the Wasatch Front Monday will only help stream flows 1 percent or so.

“When you really see it, it's kind of depressing,” he said. "We're not really seeing much of a bump at all on the low-elevation watersheds.”

Normally, a person should not be able to stand in City Creek at this time of year. But on Monday it was flowing at 3 cubic feet per second (CFS); in a typical year, it would be at 50 CFS.

Red Butte, Emigration and Parleys creeks will only deliver around 12 percent of normal runoff, McInerney said, and Big and Little Cottonwood creeks are projected to have less than 50 percent of normal runoff from April 1 until the end of July.

"That's just due to the low snowpack,” the hydrologist said.

As for this springlike wet weather, McInerney said we should be getting even more of it.

“It should be like this frequently, but we are not seeing that at all," he said.

The good news: If your lawn got a good soaking Monday, you can keep your sprinklers off a few more days. That will keep more water in our reservoirs.

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Jed Boal

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