Snow pack falls fast
Boosted by big storms at the end of February and beginning of March, the snow pack early in the week was a solid 80 percent of normal.
But just wait a few weeks, predicts the National Weather Service hydrologist who monitors the snow pack. then, Brian McInerney says, the numbers could be terrible.
McInerney projects, by April 1, the local snow pack could drop to 50 percent of normal. The area typically adds to the snow pack through April 1, meaning that date is normally seen as the time when the snow pack is at its peak. Runoff when the snow melts, he says, will be about half of normal.
"The 80 percent now is OK but we’re not going to keep adding to the snow pack," McInerney says. "Instead of adding, we’re melting and we don’t want to do that."
The snow pack and the spring weather hold important ramifications for the local water situation. Park City heavily depends on melting snow for its water supply, which comes from springs and tunnels fed by the snow.
McInerney says the amount of water contained in the snow pack at a measuring station in Thaynes Canyon, at an elevation of about 8,500 feet, is below normal and well below what was recorded in 2006. He says there are about 18 inches of water in the snow pack at the site, four inches below the typical benchmark. In 2006, there were 36 inches at the location and the level peaked in the third week of April.
Expected warm weather will bring down the totals quickly, prompting his 50 percent prediction by April 1.
"What that’s going to do is decimate that number," he says about the temperatures.
Still, though, the water situation this summer will not be dire. McInerney says there will be a "sufficient water supply," as reservoirs and groundwater sources remain recharged from the previous two winters.
At City Hall, Kathy Lundborg, the water manager, predicts the local government will request Parkites conserve water, as is the case normally. She says, though, it is unlikely City Hall will be forced to declare a water emergency.
That would probably only occur if the city loses a water source, as happened in 2005, when two sources were temporarily shut down and the city did not have access to another.
Instead, the city will rely on its normal rules, including banning daytime sprinkling and limiting sprinkling to every other day or every third day.
"I expect we will probably be asking for a lot of conservation," Lundborg says.
City Hall and state officials usually organize a public-relations campaign meant to reduce summertime water use.
The city and Summit County officials have for years tried to build a reservoir pipeline, which they say would boost the water supply and make the area less dependent on the snow pack.
The efforts, though, have been difficult but City Hall and Summit County recently reached an accord to build a pipeline from the Rockport Reservoir, near Wanship.
"There’s always a concern in a dry year like this we don’t have storage. We don’t get our water from a reservoir," Lundborg says. "Our storage is basically the aquifers."
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Welcome to Park City Parent, Summer 2020.