Utah’s snow-water equivalent is well above median, and currently none of the state is in a severe-to-extreme drought. But Utahns shouldn’t relax about their water supplies just yet.
“Definitely with the snowpack that we’ve seen this year it’s really tempting to relax and think that we don’t have to worry about water," said John Berggren, a water policy analyst for Western Resource Advocates. "It’s important to remember that just because this season’s snowpack is so great, that doesn’t mean that we no longer live in the second-driest state in the United States, that we no longer have water supply issues. While these years are really important and they really help Utah’s water supply, they doesn't mean that we don’t have to plan for water in the long run.”
According to Berggren, precipitation patterns in Utah are shifting, meaning that we have to consider the possibility of lower water availability during the growing season.
“So, climate change impacts Utah’s water in a variety of ways," he said. "We’ve seen an increase in our average temperatures. So, you have a shift from more precipitation as snow to more precipitation as rain. That’s one impact. The other issue you see is with increased temperatures you get your snowpack melting and running off earlier than it would otherwise. If your snowpack begins to melt earlier in the season, later in the summer months when things are warmest you have less water overall when you need it most in the warmest months.”
Berggren urges Utahns to be aware of their water-use patterns, and to be aware and give input on policies to conserve water.
“One of the biggest things an average Utahn can do is just become more aware of their water issues," he said. "The state is in the middle of developing a lot of conservation plans. They’re about to release a municipal and industrial conservation plan, which is basically urban use of water for the state. It’s going to be open to a public comment period. If folks kind of pay attention, let the state know what you care about, that goes a long way, kind of galvanizing Utahns to be more involved, and really pushes our state to become more water efficient.”