Despite Recent Snow, Drought One of 2003's Top Stories

Despite Recent Snow, Drought One of 2003's Top Stories

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Jed Boal ReportingThere's a reason Utah claims to have the greatest snow on earth, but before this amazing storm of 2003 the word drought was more synonymous with Utah's weather than snow.

All week, we've been reviewing the top stories of the year. Today, the number six story of 2003 has a fitting theme for today's news -- the drought that despite recent storms, still persists.

After five years it seems we're getting used to it -- lower lakes and reservoirs, talk of water rationing and trees struggling to stay green, or in the case of the spruce, blue.

It was a particularly tough year for farmers and ranchers struggling to stay ahead of the next wave of bad news, which in spring, arrived with an invasion of crickets.

Larry Lewis, Utah Dept. of Agriculture, March: "Considering the drought, there won't be a lot of feed for them in the federal lands and wilderness areas so they will be moving toward irrigated pasture lands and that's where the problem is."

While the crickets were munching, water managers were mulling over the crisis in a so-called "water summit." Water rationing was discussed by some cities and towns, while others contemplated changes in water rates -- charging more per gallon to guarantee people would use less. Most experts favored a comprehensive approach.

Zach Frankel, Utah Rivers Council, June: "We need a big-picture pragmatic investment in water conservation that includes enforcement and fines, sensible rate structures and tax incentives like xeriscaping your gardens."

By mid-summer boaters were discovering their favorite playgrounds were either half-empty or half full, depending on their point of view. At Lake Powell a silver lining came in the form of a new landscape above the water.

Eric Smith, Bullfrog Marina Manager, October: "The beaches are nice, there's plenty of water in the lake. It's a different lake. If you haven't been in a while, you'll see some things that haven't been seen in a while."

A long hot summer gave way to a dry fall and the wildfire season lingered late into autumn. But an early snowfall around Halloween paved the way for a glimpse of hope.

Brian McInerney, National Weather Service Hydrologist, August: “The longer we continue with this dry cycle the probability is greater that we'll bounce out of it. The atmosphere is dynamic, it's fluid, it moves. It doesn't like to stay the same for a long time and we've been in this condition for five years."

Experts in climatology say five to seven years is the typical cycle for a drought -- meaning a year from now, a top story may be the beginning of a wet cycle.

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