Low snowpack, dry conditions possibly extending ‘significant drought’

ST. GEORGE – Drought conditions persist as the St. George area moves out of another dry winter. While there is still a possibility spring rains could turn things around, the Washington County Water Conservancy District is anticipating another year with possible water restrictions. Prudent water use is heavily encouraged.

“I don’t recall any year where I recall it being as dry as this,” WCWCD general manager Ron Thompson said. Feburary and March are usually colder and wetter, he said. Earlier this month, he told the St. George City Council that 2014 is turning into a third year of “significant drought.”

The snowpack for southwest Utah was reported at 46 percent of normal this year, which doesn’t bode well for spring runoff. As for area rivers, the Virgin River is flowing at 36 percent of normal, and the Santa Clara River at 33 percent of normal.

“We’re going to encourage all cities to issue water restrictions,” Thompson said. Depending on the circumstances, cities may issue voluntary water restrictions. However, Thompson said the water district may ask the cities to make the restrictions mandatory.

Last year, the City of St. George issued recommended watering restrictions on a voluntary basis, with a mandatory cap on watering lawns and gardens between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

“We’re going to have to adjust our usage,” Thompson said. “Let’s be prudent.”

As of Wednesday, according to data from the water district, area reservoirs at currently at a combined 69 percent capacity. Sand Hollow is at 74 percent, Quail Creek is at 72 percent, Gunlock is at 52 percent and Kolob is at 23 percent.

“There’s probably more than enough (water) for this year and next,” Thompson told the St. George City Council during its March 6 meeting. Still, he added he does not expect that any reservoir will be full this year.

The low snowpack levels are also a cause for concern among wildland firefighting agencies. Combined with the dry weather conditions and a proliferation of wild grasses that make for plentiful fire fuel, the 2014 fire season could a heavy one. Federal, state and local officials recently met in St. George to discuss and prepare for that possibility.

For now, the forecast for the upcoming water year does not look encouraging, Thompson said. However, there is a still a possibility that it could change depending on the April weather forecast, and whether or not Mother Nature is feeling generous.

In January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared a state of natural disaster in various counties across Utah and 10 other states due to prolonged drought conditions. Twelve counties were listed in Utah, including Washington, Iron, Kane and San Juan.

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

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3 Comments

  • bsmeter March 15, 2014 at 11:21 am

    Hmm….Yep….That’s right! We live in a desert!

  • Redrock March 15, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    I have seen numerous houses where the water runs everyday. Their grass is bright green which isn’t the color it should be with normal watering. I for one am so tired of these people who think it’s only their world. I want heavy water restrictions and severe fines for excess watering and watering in the middle of the day. First offense starts at 1,000 with the third offense the shutting off of water to that property. Sounds harsh but in reality that’s the only thing that will get through to these people!

  • Bub March 16, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    AFTER THE PIPELINE IS BUILT WE WILL HAVE MORE WATER THAN THE AMAZON JUNGLE. WE WILL NEVER HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT WATER AGAIN!!!

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