SALT LAKE CITY — The cold, wet storm that certainly dampened some spring activities this week is exactly what our reservoirs needed after four very dry years, hydrologists said Friday.
The storm delivered an inch or more of water throughout most of the state, and one hydrologist said it arrived at just the right time.
"Big picture: we're going to be all right," said Randy Julander, a hydrologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. "We're much happier than we were last year."
Right now, Julander said, Utah's mountains have two to five times more snow than last year at this date. Early season snowstorms were steady in Utah, but when February arrived the temperatures rose and the storms stopped.
"Prior to this storm, snowpacks were dropping incredibly fast," Julander said.
This week's storm, and those of the last few weeks, saved the snowpack, he said.
In southern Utah, 40 percent to 60 percent of the snowpack was wiped out in recent days when the temperatures rose. But because of the storm this week, Julander said the high elevation snow will stick around longer.
In northern Utah, the snowpack averages in several drainage areas are climbing closer to average. The Bear River drainage and Uinta Basin are close to 90 percent of average. But the Provo, Weber and Duchesne rivers are running below 70 percent of average.
"If it stays cool and wet, they'll do all right," Julander said. "If it goes warm and dry, it becomes more of a problem."
Just as important, the hydrologist said, this storm put our snowpack back "in the cooler" to melt later. Before this storm, the snowpack was "in the oven," melting fast.
"We expect probably two or three days where snowmelt will be substantially depressed," he said. "If it turns very warm and very dry, it will accelerate back."
A wet, cool spring is still the best equation for Utah's water supply. When lawn irrigation starts later in the spring, more water stays in the reservoirs.