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Winter storm is good news for Utah's water supply



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SALT LAKE CITY -- The first substantial snowstorm of the season blanketed the Wasatch Front Tuesday, and it is not over.

Even though some people dread the first snow storm of the season, Tuesday's storm is good news for Utah's winter resorts and for our water supply.

The snow arrived in a series of waves, creating blizzard-like conditions at times. When it comes to our region's thirst for water, National Weather Service hydrologist Brian McInerney likes what this storm brought.

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"This is great. This is just what we needed. The more precip we get in the fall months, the better it boads for our spring run-off," McInerney says.

All of this fall moisture saturates the soil. Then, when the snowpack melts in the spring, less water soaks into the soil. That means more water flows into the canyon creeks and ends up in our reservoirs.

At around noon on Tuesday, the snow was coming down so heavily at Mountain Dell Reservoir it was near white-out conditions. It was very bad for driving, but very good for the state's water reserves.

"It would be nice if it would keep going, but it looks like it's going to drop off for a bit--about the next 10 days," McInerney says.

In other words, this storm is no guarantee that we're in for a wet winter. It simply means we've started the process of building up snowpack in the mountains. And long-term forecasting is tricky past five to seven days.

But the Wasatch Front is not in a water deficit as it was from 2000 to 2004. A wet spring this year saved a lot of water in our reservoirs, and McInerney says it's good to have that carryover.

"We're right where we want to be, even have a little more than needed, and we've had some good rains this fall," he says. "We've also got snow starting this fall, so hopefully this will keep going."

E-mail: jboal@ksl.com

Jed Boal

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