April 2023 Newsletter


By: Mike Davis

This is my first article for our Association. I am so excited to now be serving in this position for our Association. First off, a super big thanks for those that have been serving the past year, especially Rodney Banks. He has done such a great job. Make sure if you see him to let him know how much his service has been appreciated. Now, down to business.

A little info on me. I live in Heber with my wife Kimberly. I have worked in the water business my whole adult career. I started in engineering and manufacturing of water treatment equipment. I transitioned to local government and went to work for Wasatch County as the water engineer in 2001, which is when I joined the Utah Water Users Association. I have enjoyed so much these years of being part of this great Association, including the people I have met and all I have learned. I thought about this as I attended the Water Users Conference this last month. I reflected on this as I attended classes and talked with people, many of which I have known for over two decades. I feel a great responsibility with my new position to further our cause. What exactly does that mean?

I look at the precious resource of water and all those that are engaged in the different aspects of water and see one of the greatest endeavors that anyone could participate in. We have state and local government people, water district people, water engineering people, water equipment supplier people, water for irrigation people, and many more. Our Association is so important as this Association provides all of us involved in water, to come together to tackle the challenges that face us all in our different responsibilities. We have had several years of drought and now have a year with the greatest recorded snowfall ever. Talk about switching perspectives! We should remember that the drought isn’t over totally yet. We will now be dealing with potential flooding and damage to water infrastructure and all that goes with having so much snow to melt.

I don’t know any people better than those in our Association to handle this new challenge. If I could mention one concern I felt at the Water Users Workshop. Many of us are of the “Gray Hair” group and we need more new and younger people to become involved in our challenge. I am a part of this group and look in my area of the state and don’t see those younger showing interest. We all should have interest in Water. Let’s invite others to join us in this challenge and bring a younger generation along with us. Well, enough commentary. I look forward to serving you all and hope I can meet many more of you in the year to come. It is both an exciting and challenging time being involved in water. I accept the challenge!


BY Jordan Clayton (NRCS)

“What a snowpack season! As of April 4th, this winter has officially broken records for statewide snow water equivalent (SWE) from 1952 (snow course readings) and 1983 (SNOTEL data), making this year’s snowpack the deepest ever measured in Utah! Many snowpack records have been broken, for example (as of April 4th): 9 of Utah’s 16 major basins have record-high SWE, including the Duchesne, Northeastern Uintas, Weber-Ogden, Provo-Utah Lake-Jordan, Tooele Valley-Vernon Creek, Southeastern Utah, Price-San Rafael, Lower Sevier, and Beaver watersheds; 41 of Utah’s 138 SNOTEL sites were reporting an all-time record high amount of SWE, and 16 more were second-highest; 32 SNOTEL sites have at least double the amount of SWE that they would have at their typical (median) peak; and 45 of Utah’s SNOTEL sites have more than 100” of snow depth. Statewide, the snow water equivalent (SWE) measured at our SNOTEL sites was 200% of normal as of April 1st, compared with 75% of normal at this time last year.

March precipitation in Utah was significantly above normal at 254%, which brings the water-year-to-date precipitation to 158% of normal. As of April 4th, all of Utah’s major watersheds were above 130% of normal precipitation for the 2023 water year, with 4 at record-high levels (Provo-Utah Lake-Jordan, Tooele Valley-Vernon Creek, Beaver, and Lower Sevier). Statewide soil moisture is slightly below normal at 58% of saturation, compared with 68% at this time last year. This difference can be attributed to the fact that very few of Utah’s SNOTEL sites are currently losing SWE because temperatures have remained cool and we have continued to add more snow.

Utah’s reservoir storage is currently at 54% of capacity, down 2% from this time last year. While Utah’s small to medium-size reservoirs will likely fill, some of Utah’s largest (e.g. Bear Lake) most likely will not, and of course the water levels in both Lake Powell and the Great Salt Lake remain critically low.

Utahns will need to continue to conserve water to help make progress replenishing our storage systems. April 1 forecasts for April to July streamflow are very high, with >200% of median flow forecast for 61 stream gage locations out of 82 total, and >400% of median flow predicted for 15 of Utah’s sites. The snowmelt runoff may break previous records this spring. Listed here are forecast points where the previous record would rank at the 30th percentile exceedance probability or higher compared with this year’s forecast: Pineview Reservoir Inflow, S. Willow Creek near Grantsville, Currant Creek below Currant Creek Dam, American Fork above Upper Powerplant, Little Cottonwood Creek near SLC, Big Cottonwood Creek near SLC, Mill Creek near SLC, Parleys Creek near SLC, Fish Ck above reservoir near Scofield, White River below Tabbyune Creek, and Mill Creek at Sheley Tunnel near Moab.

Surface Water Supply Indices (SWSI) for Utah basins combine our current reservoir levels with the additional volume of water anticipated for each watershed based on these April 1 streamflow forecasts. All but three of Utah’s basins have SWSI values well above the 50th percentile, suggesting that those basins will have favorable amounts of surface water supplies compared with previous observations. Several basins are above the 90th percentile, suggesting that surface water supplies for these areas should be in outstanding shape this summer. Please refer to the NRCS-Utah Snow Survey’s April 1 Water Supply Outlook Report for more details on all of these topics.”


BY Glen Merrill (NWS)

We all asked for it, and we got it. The first 6 months of water year 2023 has been one for the records, and has dramatically improved our drought status from 95% of our state experiencing extreme or worse conditions, to now only 9% of our state hanging onto severe. All other areas of the state are now in a moderate drought category, or less. Quite the dramatic swing! This trend of improvement will continue as the record breaking snowpack in place will aid the lingering hydrologic drought by replenishing most all of our reservoirs outside of Flaming Gorge and Lake Powell as we head into the early summer months.

Good news! A persistent period of below to well below normal temperatures and a continuation of well above average precipitation from early November to the present have been the driving factors for our record snowpack as it stands. This not only holds true at our upper elevations, as our low and mid elevation snowpack is even more anomalous than historical years of past. Outside of a two week “dry spell” that was much cooler than normal in early February, high pressure has been nonexistent this winter for the first time in memory. From a temperature perspective, mean daily values across the state from October 1 to present have run 3-5 degrees below normal values (period of record back to 1895), with roughly half the state falling within the lowest 10th percentile over that time.

Meanwhile, statewide precipitation for the same period has been much above average falling into the top 10th percentile, also back to 1895. Even more noteworthy, areas stretching from the Book Cliffs to the Wasatch Plateau, and portions of the Wasatch have seen record wettest conditions. Just phenomenal! This has been most notable March into early April, as temperatures have run 8-13 degrees below normal, while precipitation ranged from 200-350% percent of normal for a month that climatologically is one of our wettest. The winter just continued to ramp up!

So now focus shifts from drought to flooding given current status of conditions and time of year. What awaits remains to be seen and will be dictated by the weather moving forward into June, but the potential as it stands is as high as it gets. Knowns are the water supply forecasts for April-July volumes ranging from 150 – 250 – 350+% normal depending on basin. Said, peak flows remain an unknown, and will be dictated by when and how much temperatures warm up as the snowpack turns isothermal. We’re not even close to seeing the latter though, as the mid and upper elevation snowpack in many areas remains a winter one at this time, and climate outlooks tip the tables towards below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation remaining in place on average through the end of April.

Enjoy this brief episodic warm-up through April 14th, and hope for more episodic warmups from there. When will we peak? How much will we peak with? When do we flip the switch? An eventful few months are still to come. That’s a given.


House Bill 491 – Great Salt Lake
By: Jeffry R. Gittins

The 2023 session of the Utah Legislature was another busy session for water. There were nearly 40 water bills that were presented during the session. One of the more significant bills is House Bill 491, which creates the new position of Great Salt Lake Commissioner. The GSL Commissioner answers jointly to the Governor, Speaker of the House, and President of the Senate. The GSL Commissioner is tasked with creating a strategic plan by the end of 2023 based on a “holistic approach that balances the diverse interests related to the health of the Great Salt Lake,” and includes provisions concerning the coordination of Great Salt Lake efforts, achieving a sustainable water supply, protecting human health and the ecosystem, economic development, water conservation, water and land use planning, and regional water sharing. The plan needs to be approved by the Governor, after which it will be distributed to state agencies. The GSL Commissioner is also responsible for implementing the strategic plan and may require state agencies—other than the State Engineer and, in some circumstances, the Department of Environmental Quality—to take action or refrain from acting “to benefit the health of the Great Salt Lake to comply with the strategic plan.”

The other responsibilities of the GSL Commissioner include maintaining information on the lake; coordinating and consulting with state and federal agencies, political subdivisions, elected officials, and others with responsibilities or interests relating to the lake; monitoring the ongoing integrated water assessment; and other similar duties. The GSL Commissioner will be supported by a new Office of the Great Salt Lake Commissioner, which will be housed in the Department of Natural Resources but staffed and operated independently by the GSL Commissioner. The bill also adds a seat to the Board of Water Resources for a member that “represents the interests of the Great Salt Lake” – which presumably will be the GSL Commissioner.


By Carly Burton

2023 Water Users Workshop

What a great turnout we had for the Workshop last month. Although the weather was miserable, we were able to pull off holding the golf tournament, thanks to the great efforts of Stockton Denos with Epic Engineering. Also, special thanks for Nathan Lunstad and Mike Collins with Bowen Collins and Associates for hosting the bike ride event. We were able to get commitments from 38 co-sponsors and golf sponsors, 47 exhibitors, 42 for the guest program and a total of nearly 900 registrants, speakers and all the other participants.

I would also like to thank the Workshop Committee for tirelessly coming up with the exceptional topics and speakers. This event cannot be done without the great help of so many participants. Special thanks to USU Event Services for handling the registrations and the Dixie Center for hosting this event. Next year the Workshop will be held on March 18-20, 2024 so be sure and mark your calendars.


I would be negligent if I did not acknowledge the retirements of G. Keith Denos with Provo River Water Users and Bart Forsyth with Jordan Valley Water. They have served their constituents for many years and we will certainly miss their wisdom, experience, knowledge and friendship. Good luck in your retirements and new adventures.