January 2024 Newsletter


By: Mike Davis

What a difference a little bit of time makes in nature. December looked bleak and my grand kids that came to see us in December wondered where the snow was. They remembered very well last year at Christmas time and all the snow we had. Well, fast forward a few weeks and we see some amazing snow our mountains. Much of the State is at near normal with some higher than normal snow depth. We do have a couple areas that still need a lot more and we pray for them. We aren’t out of the woods yet because we still have a few months to hopefully receive more of our white “gold” in our mountains. If things continue as we hope, we should be in very good shape, particularly in our reservoirs. We started this season ahead in water storage in many areas of the State. Lets keep it going!

We are now starting into the State Legislative session. Yea. This time of year can bring many surprises. We need to keep a close eye on bills that are coming up and if you see a bill you are worried about, let Carly know and we will look into it. One thing we should especially keep an eye on are bills on the Great Salt Lake. This is a hot item this year and with most of us being water users, we should watch for any bills that may have an impact on us. Sometimes bills are submitted and unintended consequences arise. I think that I can safely say that we are all interested in the health of all of our water systems in the State. We need to be vigilant in protecting water rights, water conservation, watershed protection, and healthy water ways. Colorado River issues will be big news as well.

I know very well that some of the smallest water users in the State can have a very needed influence on many of the water issues we face. We all need to keep up the good work. Thanks for all that all of you do to that end.

A little personal note. I just retired from working for Wasatch County. Utah Water Users now has my full attention. I love doing that which is so important to me and to most of you, working with water. My phone number is the same, 435-671-3216. Email has changed, michaelkdavis@hotmail.com.



To summarize the annual year 2023, weatherwise, in one sentence…it came in like a lion and went out like a lamb!

Focusing on WY2024, outside of periodic storm events every week to ten days (of the modest variety with warm/dry conditions between), the first two months of the water year were largely a bust. Statewide average snowpack sat near the lowest 10th percentile on November 31st, and little if any snowpack remained in the mid elevations, or even the upper elevation solar aspects. The warmth between storms during those dry periods can be blamed for this! From there, through the end of December, there was only one storm cycle of note which occurred during the first week of month. Dry and stable conditions and warm (very warm!) temperatures dominated the remainder of the month. Let’s look at this a bit closer.

Looking at mean temperatures for the first three months of the water year, that span produced above, to, much above normal temperatures, with many higher elevation locales experiencing top 10th percentile conditions for the long-term period of record. December alone was the 123rd warmest of the 129 years from that period of record in regards to mean statewide temperatures. Nationwide? Temperatures were the warmest on record for the month! Statewide average precipitation for that same period was the 19th driest on record. It would have been much worse though, if it hadn’t been for that early December storm cycle. The day the calendar flipped into December an inland penetrating atmospheric river took aim on northern Utah yielding 3-7+” of SWE in the northern mountains over the next 5 days. Further to the south, a few inches of SWE to central mountains. Further to the south, a half inch at best. The trajectory of the storm largely skipped out on the southern Utah mountains south of I-70, but even though the southern mountains missed out, the statewide average SWE eclipsed the median mark for the date. Finally, many areas had a solid base to build off of, but the discrepancies between the northern basins (wet) and southern basins (dry) were marked. Above normal for the former, below normal still for the latter. Then high pressure set in staunchly, and by the end of the month the statewide average snowpack once again flirted with the lowest 10th percentile on record when the New Year was brought in. A roller coaster of sorts.

January has thus far seen a turn back into the storm cycle realm, and the low-density snowfall which has been falling of late, yielding more impressive snow totals than water, is about to get another thump of atmospheric river moisture with the strong storm arriving on the 13th. For northern/central Utah, many of those basins that have been sitting in those “warm colors” on the snowpack maps will quickly phase into the “cool”. Across the south though, another miss, and recovering from these snowpack trends are beginning to look a bit worrisome this year. Said, there’s still almost three months left to go, and things can change in a hurry.

How may those three months evolve during this “strong” El Nino winter? Let’s look at the Climate Prediction Center’s most recent seasonal outlook. Scales tipped towards warmer than normal conditions in the north and west, but no strong signal for the remainder of the state. Scales tipped wetter than normal across much of the state, with strongest probabilities for those wetter conditions across the southern portions of the state. These trends in the outlooks are quite typical for “strong” El Nino winters for the latter half of the winter and into the spring. Namely, a higher frequency of storm events, with storm tracks shifting further south in latitude, in time. Bottom line, an optimistic outlook for those basins that need it the most right now.


By: Jordon Clayton

“This year’s snowpack is off to a disappointing start. As of January 1st, the statewide snow water equivalent (SWE) measured at our SNOTEL sites was 69% of normal, with all major basins below 80%. Conditions worsen as one heads southward in the state—particularly for southwestern Utah watersheds. Conditions are starting to improve in early January, but as of this writing statewide SWE was still in the bottom 20th percentile. As of January 1st, the water-year-to-date precipitation value for Utah was 78%.

Similar to SWE, precipitation percent-of-normal conditions are notably worse in southern Utah. Statewide soil moisture is at 51% of saturation, which is very close to last year’s value and is slightly above normal for this time of year. Despite the poor start to our snowpack season, the relatively moist mountain soils will help promote runoff efficiency in the spring. Streamflow forecasts for April to July snowmelt runoff volume are generally pessimistic, with between 48% and 117% of normal April through July flow predicted.

Utah’s reservoir storage is currently at 78% of capacity, which is 32% higher than last year at this time. This storage level reflects the benefit of last winter’s outstanding snowpack and the conservation measures promoted across Utah. 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 January 1 streamflow forecasts. While some areas of the state with significant ground to make up (due to large amounts of depleted reservoir storage) have low SWSI values, such as Ferron Creek and the Lower Sevier basins, SWSI values for most of the state are close to average (50th percentile) due to the disappointing snowpack thus far. That said, please recall that January 1 forecasts are meant to be advisory only; forecast accuracy improves as we approach peak snowpack accumulation (typically near April 1st).

We have been working with hydrologists at the National Water and Climate Center, and we are now able to provide Great Salt Lake (GSL) current conditions for snowpack (SWE), precipitation, soil moisture, and reservoir storage within the GSL basin. Currently, the snowpack in the GSL basin is at 80% of normal, which is discouraging. However, precipitation levels for this water year are close to normal (98%) and soil moisture is well above normal at 62% of saturation.

Moreover, there is substantial carryover storage in GSL subbasin reservoirs; currently the region’s storage is at 80% of capacity, which is 33% higher than last year at this time. The 50% exceedance forecast for inflow into the GSL is 420 thousand acre-feet (93% of normal) which would result in a lake level rise of ~0.4 feet (with a probable range from 0 to 1.1 feet of lake level rise). That’s a fairly meager increase, so keep fingers crossed that snowpack conditions improve!”


By: Jeffry R. Gittins, Smith Hartvigsen PLLC

The 2024 session of the Utah Legislature begins on January 16 and ends on March 1. There are a number of water-related bills that will be considered during the session, including those summarized below. Undoubtedly, additional water bills will be released during the session.

House Bill 11 – Water Efficient Landscaping Requirements: This bill seeks to limit how much grass or turf a governmental entity can install as part of new construction or reconstruction of governmental buildings and facilities. The limitation would apply within the drainage of the Great Salt Lake.

House Bill 57 – Snake Valley Aquifer Advisory Council Amendments: This bill dissolves the Snake Valley Aquifer Advisory Council, which was originally established in 2009 to deal with the Snake Valley water filings made by the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

House Bill 61 – Water Measuring and Accounting Amendments: This bill would allow the State Engineer to make administrative rules about water distribution accounting and the usage of telemetry for water measurement and reporting purposes.

Senate Bill 18 – Water Modifications
This bill retools the provisions about allowing water users who install agricultural water optimization projects to file applications with the Division of Water Rights to put the “saved water” to another beneficial use.

Senate Bill 39 – Water Shareholder Amendments: This bill changes the timeline that water companies have to follow when considering shareholder change application. The bill gives the water companies 120 days, regardless of whether the change application is permanent or temporary.

Unnumbered – Water Related Changes
This bill would require various state agencies (including the Division of Water Resources, the Division of Drinking Water, and the Division of Water Quality) to develop annual water infrastructure plans that would describe needed water projects. The plans would be submitted to the Water Development Coordinating Council, who would then develop a “unified water infrastructure plan.” The Council would also develop a prioritization process for ranking water infrastructure projects that will be funded with State money. The bill would also require retail water providers to assess an annual “water use fee” that would be deposited into a Water Infrastructure Fund, and the Fund would be used to issue loans and grants to pay for the prioritized projects.

Unnumbered – Water Usage Amendments: This bill would prohibit the watering of lawn or turf between October 1 and April 1 in counties within the Great Salt Lake watershed. The bill also authorizes fines for violation of the watering restriction.


By: Carly Burton


I Can’t believe how fast time flies these days. Does that come with age or are we all just too busy with life and work. Anyway, the St. George Workshop is fast approaching and will be held on March 18-20, 2024. On Monday, March 18 we will be co-sponsoring the annual Legal Seminar at the Dixie Center. You can call Barnett Water Consulting at 801-292-4662 for details.

We are also hosting the annual golf tournament and bike ride. Details of those events can be found on our website. The actual Workshop will begin on Tuesday morning and will last until early afternoon on Wednesday, March 20.

This year we are having 2 special sessions. On Tuesday, USU Extension will be hosting a session for canal company operators. It will be held from 4:30 to 6:00 in Ballroom A. In addition, the Division of Water Rights will be hosting all day sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday for anyone needing advice or guidance on water rights or other legal water issue. We have 64 sessions this year ranging from Water Rights, Legal & Legislative issues, Water Resources, Technology & Innovation, Water Quality and, for the first time, Agriculture sessions. USU Event Services is again handling all the registrations so you can contact them on-line at http://cvent.me/gOvBqZ or by e-mail at register.online@usu.edu. Remember, the deadline for getting hotel room reservations is February 15. We look forward to seeing you there.


I would like to welcome our newest member, GK Denos Consulting. As you may already know, our long time friend Keith Denos, retired from Provo River Water Users Association last year after over 28 years of service. Keith has overseen numerous large water projects including the $150 million Provo Reservoir Canal Enclosure Project and the $100 million Deer Creek intake project. Keith has decades of experience working with federal, state and local lawmakers involving permitting and federal and state legislation. Keith can be contacted at gkdenosconsulting.com.