Utah's reservoirs at highest levels in 13 years as last of snowpack melts

Deer Creek Reservoir is pictured at Deer Creek State Park in Wallsburg on May 10. Utah's reservoir system is now up to 92% — the highest in 13 years, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Deer Creek Reservoir is pictured at Deer Creek State Park in Wallsburg on May 10. Utah's reservoir system is now up to 92% — the highest in 13 years, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. (Marielle Scott, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's reservoir system has officially reached its highest point in 13 years as the state reaches the tail end of its spring snowmelt season.

The statewide system is now up to 92% capacity, according to the Utah Division of Water Resources. It's a level the state last reached in 2011, the Natural Resources Conservation Service pointed out in a report updating the state's water situation ahead of the summer.

The statewide capacity is based on all of the reservoirs in Utah excluding Flaming Gorge and Lake Powell, which aren't considered major suppliers of Utah water. Flaming Gorge is back to 84% capacity, while Lake Powell is up to 36% capacity.

The Conservation Service notes that reservoir storage within the Beaver, Duchesne, Price, Provo, Southeastern Utah, Tooele Valley and Weber-Ogden watersheds are "at or close to" full capacity, which is driving the higher statewide average.

"Utah's reservoir storage is in outstanding shape," the report states.

The system was in a much different situation less than two years ago. It had fallen to 42% capacity in November 2022 amid a multiyear severe drought before Utah's water fortunes changed.

Its resurgence is tied to back-to-back winters that weren't just above average, but impacted most of the snowpack basins/watersheds in the state, said Jordan Clayton, a hydrologist for the agency and author of the report.

Every Utah snowpack basin's water-year-to-date precipitation levels were listed at 127%-173% of normal at the beginning of June 2023 after last year's record 30-inch snowpack. Utah's reservoir system ultimately peaked at 86% last summer.

Precipitation totals haven't been as impressive since the 2024 water year began in October, but every basin entered this month at 87%-120% of normal for this point in the water year following this year's 18.8-inch snowpack. It also helped that the reservoir system only fell to a low of 74% after last summer's peak.

"It wasn't just in certain locations of the state. It hit every basin," Clayton said. "This year was less so, but we also had really nice statewide snowpack instead of just the northern or southern half of the state. ... It's the best two seasons we've had in a row since 2005 and 2006."

This map shows Utah reservoir levels across Utah as of Thursday. Utah's system jumped from 42% capacity in November 2022 to 92% this month.
This map shows Utah reservoir levels across Utah as of Thursday. Utah's system jumped from 42% capacity in November 2022 to 92% this month. (Photo: Utah Division of Water Resources)

It's unclear how much more reservoirs could rise this year. The Conservation Service reports that Utah's average snowpack is down to its final inch of snow water equivalent — about 5% of this year's peak.

Clayton said higher totals are likely still left in highest-elevation areas across the Wasatch Mountains and near Beaver, which could tack on "substantial inflows" to some reservoirs in those regions. It's also contributing to some minor flooding risks with mid-summer-like temperatures in the immediate forecast.

Areas of two RV parks and acres of farmland were flooded Tuesday as the Weber River swelled with runoff waters.
Areas of two RV parks and acres of farmland were flooded Tuesday as the Weber River swelled with runoff waters. (Photo: Andrew Adams, KSL-TV)

What's also unclear is how long Utah's good water fortunes will last. This is why Utah leaders and water managers continue to push for water conservation.

"Keep conserving," Gov. Spencer Cox said last month, as the reservoir system reached 90%. "It's actually working. I know we've had a good water year, but we're well ahead of where we would have been because people conserved last year in what was a record water year."

Clayton adds that some of the biggest reservoirs — like Lake Powell — still have a long way to go, and so does the Great Salt Lake. The lake's southern arm reached its highest point in five years this spring but remains about 3 feet below its minimum healthy level, while its northern arm is 6 feet below the healthy level.

A third straight winter of above-normal snowpack would be great, but it's way too early to project what next winter will bring after a surprising but much-needed two-year stretch of moisture.

"These larger oceanic patterns just aren't giving us a lot of guidance in terms of Utah's snowpack," Clayton said. "I just don't think there's anything that's a strong enough signal out there that would give us any clear guidance on where the weather is going."

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com.

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