Southwest Utah is bone dry. Snowpack in the region is 47% of normal, compared to 229% last year, according to the January Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) report.
The slow start to precipitation this year combined with an extremely dry summer last year has resulted in exceptionally low soil moisture levels – a dismal 18% in southwestern Utah. That means Utah will need well above-average snowpack this winter to produce an average run-off in the spring.
Southern Utah has been in a near steady state of drought for the last two decades. This exceptionally dry year underscores the need for reliable water storage and delivery systems, particularly given southern Utah depends exclusively on the Virgin River Basin. NRCS reports the surface water index, a predictor of water availability, for the Virgin River is at 30%. Considering the continuing drought predictions, communities without multiple water resources are at greater risk.
The Virgin River is a desert tributary to the Colorado River, is smaller in annual run-off, seasonal flow, and basin size than the Colorado, and is even more at risk from continuing drought and unpredictable climate fluctuation.
There are significant risks to relying on a single-source water system, especially when that system serves one of the nation’s fastest-growing populations and economies. The Lake Powell Pipeline (LPP) will deliver a second source of water to the region, diversifying the area’s water supply and enabling more water to be stored locally. LPP would store water in Sand Hollow Reservoir, helping to provide water in dry times similar to those occurring now.