This June was one of the hottest and driest on record in the state of Utah.
With water on a lot of people’s minds, the Utah governor’s office is hosting a series of public meetings to discuss the future of the state’s water source development. The first meeting is set for 7 p.m., Tuesday, July 9, at the Sevier County Fairgrounds in Richfield [after Reaper press time].
“To succeed, this must be a collaborative process where everyone has a voice and where all ideas are welcome,” said Alan Matheson, the governor’s environmental adviser. “We need the general public’s help because at the end of the day, they are a major part of the solution. We invite all to participate in this important effort.”
The governor is seeking comments or suggestions concerning —
• Competition for water resources.
• Meeting the water needs of a growing population while protecting the environment.
• Funding water infrastructure.
• Defining the future of water for agriculture.
• Addressing water law and its application.
• Using water more efficiently.
• Other issues related to Utah’s water future.
The meeting in Richfield is the first in a series of eight scheduled throughout the state. For more information, log onto utahswater.org.
Runoff across the state is currently below average, some 8 percent of what is considered normal, according to the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service climate and water report for the state of Utah.
Many sites in southern Utah went between 40 and 60 days without measurable precipitation. With the exception of a storm system that worked its way across the state during the weekend, most of Utah has gone more than 40 days since precipitation of any consequence, said Randy Julander, hydrologist for the NRCS.
Soil moisture is currently at the bottom of historically observed July 1 values across the entire state.
“Utah watersheds are dry and getting dryer,” Julander said. “Reservoir storage is declining rapidly, near 67 percent of capacity across the state, down 6 percent from last month and 12 percent less than last year.”
Julander said people who rely on direct streamflow can expect shortages for the remainder of the summer and fall, while those with reservoir storage are likely to experience significant cuts to allocations.
Piute Reservoir is at approximately 49 percent capacity as of the first week of July. Otter Creek is at 57 percent, followed by Yuba at 43 percent, Panguitch at 34 percent and Rocky Ford at 3 percent.
Rangelands are also feeling the pinch from the lack of precipitation.
Range in Sevier, Wayne, Piute and Sanpete counties achieved typical growth due to moisture received in May, but slowed down significantly during June due to the dry weather, said Jacob Owens, rangeland management specialist.
“Cool season grasses are now entering summer dormancy and will likely not produce much more forage until fall,” Owens said. “Warm season grass production will be low if dry conditions continue.”