Snowpack levels in Utah are currently shattering records, based on data gathered by the National Resources Conservation Service. Storms in late March brought snowpack levels to 26.1 inches of snow water equivalent. These levels of snowpack are the highest recorded in the last four decades.
During winter storms, snow accumulates in high elevation areas. This snow builds up over time as temperatures remain below freezing, and the accumulation of snow is known as “snowpack.” As temperatures rise, the snowpack melts, depositing water into nearby rivers and lakes.
On March 24, the Utah Division of Water Resources tweeted about the unprecedented amount of snowpack, saying, “It’s official: Utah ties the record statewide snowpack of 26 inches of snow water equivalent set back in 1983.”
This tweet was published while winter storm conditions were ongoing, and the record was surpassed shortly afterward.
The moisture provided by the massive amount of snowpack could help ease the effects of the drought happening throughout Utah and potentially restore the water levels of the Great Salt Lake. According to a 2023 report published by a group of environmental scientists, the lake’s current water levels are 73% below average.
The Utah Division of Water Resources website explains why snowpack is crucial in times of drought.
“In Utah, we get approximately 95% of our water from snowpack. Reservoir storage is dependent upon snowpack and runoff to get us through dry years. Extended drought has depleted our reservoirs, and it will take multiple years of above-average snowpack and precipitation to reverse drought impacts.”
Gov. Spencer J. Cox tweeted about the snowfall, stressing the need for responsible conservation practices moving forward.
“We have been incredibly blessed with record snowfall this year, but we know it is not enough for our growing state,” said Cox. “We must continue on the conservation path we have started. This miracle gives us a chance to set a bright future for the lake and our state.”
Despite the hope provided by this year’s above-average precipitation, agency officials warn Utah residents to pay close attention to the changing climate. If temperatures don’t rise at a gradual pace, there is a possibility that the snowpack will melt too quickly and overwhelm the infrastructure put in place to prevent flooding. For more information on how the Cedar City community has been preparing for the potential flooding, see here.
Story by: Nick Stein
Photo by: Anden Garfield