Despite wet spring, conservation still encouraged; free water checks available

Sand Hollow Reservoir, date unspecified | Photo by Brett Barrett, St. George News
Cows gather around a picnic table at Gunlock Reservoir, Gunlock, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Sand Hollow State Park Complex, St. George News
Cows gather around a picnic table at Gunlock Reservoir, which was 36 percent full as of May 1 , Gunlock, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Sand Hollow State Park Complex, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – A cool, wet spring is filling reservoirs and saving residents from the need to water their lawns; however, according to the Washington County Water Conservancy District, water conservation measures are still needed.

Our water conditions have significantly improved this year compared to last year,” Washington County Water Conservancy District spokesperson Karry Rathje said. “Snowpack was 139 percent of normal compared to 38 percent in 2015, and seasonal precipitation from October to April was 105 percent of average compared to 60 percent in 2015. Storage in our reservoirs is up, as well as stream flows in the Virgin River.”

Higher than average precipitation this spring reduced the demand for outdoor watering, saving approximately 60 million gallons of water in the first quarter of 2016.

“Our residents are waiting to turn on their irrigation system and turning them off when it rains,” Rathje said. “Reducing or eliminating outdoor watering cycles is one of the most effective practices residents can implement to save water. “

In spite of the wet spring, water conservation is still encouraged. The district has asked municipalities to implement and enforce time-of-day watering restrictions during the hot summer months, Rathje said.

Image courtesy of Natural Resources Conservation Service, St. George News
Image courtesy of Natural Resources Conservation Service, St. George News

Last week, county, municipal and water district leaders in partnership with the Utah Division of Water Resources announced the H2Oathwater conservation pledge campaign and invited all Utahns to join in by signing the pledge online.


Read more: Washington County takes the H2Oath with new water-wise program


The Washington County Water Conservancy District is offering home and business owners free water checks from May through September. The water checks give participants a customized irrigation schedule based on their system’s efficiency, application rate and soil type. Most home and business owners overwater their turf, Rathje said.

In the southwestern Utah basin, precipitation in April was above average at 176 percent, which brings the seasonal accumulation – October through April – to 105 percent of average. Soil moisture is at 75 percent compared to 64 percent last year. 

Image courtesy of Natural Resources Conservation Service, St. George News
Image courtesy of Natural Resources Conservation Service, St. George News

May 1 snowpack as measured by the Natural Resources Conservation Service SNOTEL system in southwest Utah was at 139 percent of average, Rathje said, compared to 38 percent last year. The statewide figure is 81 percent of average compared to 23 percent last year. Given current conditions, snow in most watersheds will melt by late May or early June.

 Mountain precipitation as measured by the NRCS SNOTEL system during April in southwestern Utah was 176 percent of average; the statewide figure is 108 percent of average, Rathje said. This brings the seasonal accumulation from October through April to 96 percent of average statewide, about 32 percent more than last year.

Storage in 48 of Utah’s key irrigation reservoirs is at 61 percent of capacity, which is one percent less than last year. 

In Southern Utah, Quail Creek Reservoir is 87 percent full, and Sand Hollow is at 86 percent. Kolob is completely full, while Gunlock Reservoir is at 36 percent.

Gunlock Reservoir receives its water from the Santa Clara River, a small river located on the western side of the county. Most of the snow fell in the eastern part of the basin in the Virgin River drainage area, Rathje said. Both Sand Hollow and Quail Creek reservoirs receive water from the Virgin River.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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