Drought conditions leave some reservoir levels low
September 13, 2016
Five years of drought conditions and an unusually dry August have left many of Utah's reservoirs at low levels. Ty Hunter, boating programs manager with Utah’s Division of Parks and Recreation, said that is particularly true at two bodies of water.
"Yuba Lake at Yuba State Park is extremely low," he said. "And then we have Utah Lake that is at a low point also."
Hunter attributed the problem this year in part to the previous winter, which was good in some areas of the state but not all.
"Last winter was not as good as what we wanted to have," he said. "But we had some last-minute storms that kind of bailed us out. So our upper reservoirs, the ones in your backyard — Jordanelle, Deer Creek, Rockport — those ones that have been supplied from the Uintas? They have done very well.
"The Uinta Mountains, the Weber and Provo drainages, they got that last-minute thump up there and that saved our bacon."
Hunter said even some places where there was ample snowfall did not benefit as much as they should have because of years of drought.
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"The Sevier, which Yuba runs on, they got some snow but the land was just so dry that the water did not make it down to be held in that reservoir in the quantities we'd hoped for," he said.
Hunter described the rainfall in northern Utah as "dismal," and he said the dry summer is going to have an effect on bodies of water like Yuba Lake and Utah Lake that are now running low.
"The fisherman that is going to go out on Yuba Lake and fish from a boat may have to figure out a different way of doing things," he said. "Just because the ramps are high and dry. And it's almost the same thing at Utah Lake. Ramps are not high and dry there but you may want to be thinking ahead."
Hunter said recreators heading to any reservoir should play it safe and plan ahead. Know what you are planning to do and call ahead to ask about your vessel and whether it will be okay in current conditions. Even rescue operators are having to account for the low water levels, he added.
"Rescue could be hampered because we are now starting to use a lot of low-water vessels in these situations, like an airboat or even into flat bottom jon boats," he said. "They will go into shallow water, but the thing is the weather component. If the wind kicks up and waves are going, that's going to hinder the operation. We'll come and get you but it may be a little delayed."
Hunter said he is hopeful a few months of good precipitation will turn things around.
"I'm going to play the optimist here," he said. "I think if we had a good winter our reservoir levels would go up. We need that moisture that comes from winter storms to be used for irrigation in the summer months. For irrigation, for our yards, for industrial use, and also a big one is for agricultural use."
It's not enough to just have a snowy winter.
"The thing that can curb those uses bigtime is if we could get some storms in the summer, too. So, not only have a good, wet winter, but to also have some precipitation falling in June, July, August, so even the farmers can look at it and say, 'It's rained enough, I don't necessarily have to water.'"
For more information, visit StateParks.Utah.gov.
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