Summer storms help reduce water demands in Utah

Statewide reservoir storage was at 77% as of Sept. 14

The Rockport Reservoir, where Park City gets a large supply of its water, was at 81% capacity as of Sept. 14. The reservoir typically ends the season around 72%.
Toria Barnhart/Park Record

Summer storms don’t boost the state’s water supply the same way as its winter counterpart, but this year’s monsoons have helped make a difference.

The moisture has played a critical role in reducing water demand across the state, according to Utah water officials. The state’s overall precipitation was 139% of normal as of Sept. 14.

“Monsoonal moisture may not have been a silver bullet for our reservoirs, but it has been a lifeline in reducing demand,” said Candice Hasenyager, the director of the Division of Water Resources, in a statement. “It reminds us that nature plays an important role in our quest for resiliency, and reducing demand is the one lever we have to pull to secure our water future.”

There has historically been a high evaporative demand, or how thirsty the air is for water, over the last several summers. However, the demand in the western half of Utah has been lowered over the past three months due to storms. 

Michael Sanchez, a public information officer with the Division of Water Resources, said the reduced demand can bring big water savings as fewer people are watering their lawns. Reservoirs normally drop around 15%, but this year they are only dropping around 8%. 

Statewide reservoir storage was at 77% as of Sept. 14 compared to 45% this time last year. Normal reservoir storage for this period is considered to be around 57%, according to water officials. 

“Our reservoirs are holding strong,” Sanchez said. Both lower evaporative demand and the resulting decrease in human use play a role.

The Rockport Reservoir, where Park City gets a large supply of its water, was at 81% capacity. This year, it peaked at 101%. Sanchez said the reservoir typically ends the season around 72%. 

Other waterways across the Wasatch Back have also benefited from an exceptional water year. The Echo Reservoir was at 70% capacity as of Sept. 14, with the Smith and Morehouse Reservoir at 92% and the Jordanelle Reservoir at 86%.

The arrival of cooler temperatures at the tail end of summer as we head into fall will also be crucial for water savings. Around 8% of the state is in a moderate drought compared to 56% of the state in an extreme drought this time in 2022.

“It’s been a really good year,” Sanchez said. “All of this water, all of this snowpack, all of this record-breaking year, it definitely gives us time to implement all of these planning and reports that we’re currently doing. … It gives us a little breath of fresh air and lets us actually do the work that we need to.”

It’s hard to predict what the winter will look like, but Sanchez hopes for another above-average year. However, he joked officials say they are always either working through a drought or preparing for the next one.

Utahns are encouraged to visit for more information about water conservation.


CONNECT Summit County will end its run Saturday; other groups have reduced need, leaders say

“We really have proven in our name that connection from one human being to another is critical to a healthy life. People should really keep that going,” Julya Sembrat said. “Even though we are closing our doors, we really hope people continue to connect with one another and listen to one another and that’s how we can help support this amazing community.”

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