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Utah rounds out dreary 2017-18 season for snowpack

SALT LAKE CITY — If Utah's snowpack was a homework assignment, it would be covered in red marks and rejected.

Fifty percent of average just doesn't cut it; the ski industry, water managers and farmers demand more.

"It was not the worst year on record, so that is good," said Troy Brosten, trying to sound optimistic.

Brosten, acting data collection supervisor with the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Utah Snow Survey, said the snowpack accumulation season that ended April 1 left most basins at between 50 percent to 60 percent of normal.

While that is not good, it's a far cry from some of the numbers at the start of January, when 2018 started off dust dry in many locations.

The Beaver Basin, for example, sat at just 6 percent of normal at the first of the year. Since then, it has managed to claw its way to half of average.

"We started out January with a deficit," Brosten said. "We did not have any snowpack because we did not get regular snowstorms."

Since January, most areas of the state have experienced a few snowstorms a month, which Brosten said is still a far cry from what's normal.

"Every month was below normal," he explained.

The only two bright spots in the state for snow accumulation are the Bear River basin and the north slope of the Uintas, areas that benefited from snowstorms that swept north of Utah. Both of those are about 80 percent of normal, Brosten said.

Utah will also be able to stumble through the irrigation season because of reservoirs that are full of water carried over from last year.

"That is going to help out a lot," he said. "The real question is what is in store for us next winter."

Joshua Palmer, spokesman with the Utah Division of Water Resources, said the snowpack's dismal performance is a good reminder for people to conserve.

There's no reason for anyone to be watering yet this season, but some division employees observed someone with sprinklers on before April with snow in the area, he said.

"We have already seen people turning on their water," he said. "We think most people care about their water use and want to be efficient. This is a great time to double down on that," Palmer said.

The division will begin posting its weekly watering guide online starting Friday.

"We are encouraging people to follow its recommendations," he said.

Watering too early, Palmer said, is not good for the landscape and creates shallow root systems.

"Shallow root systems and shallow people are kind of the same thing; they are not fun to be around."

Spring is also a good time for residents to rethink their landscaping and consider changes that conserve more water.

"The first thing people will notice is that it looks better," he insisted.