August Rains Ease Drought | KUER 90.1

August Rains Ease Drought

Sep 8, 2014

August rains turned much of drought-stricken Utah green. Pictured here is Lakefork Basin from Porcupine Pass.
Credit Beau Uriona / Courtesy: NCRS

Ranchers throughout Utah feared at the beginning of this summer that the drought would be sticking around. But a remarkably wet August has transformed the landscape.

Parts of Northern Utah received almost 4 times as much water as the 30-year average. And, in southern parts of the state, the skies blessed the parched landscape with up to twice as much rain as usual.

A basin-by-basin tally of August precipitation.
Credit Courtesy: NCRS

“The first thing [this rain] did was: We didn’t use nearly as much of our reservoir storage,” says Randy Julander, who tracks Utah’s precipitation and reservoirs for the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“In other words, we saved a lot of water by not using it, and that is water we can use next year. The second thing that it did is it brought up our soil moisture. Our soil moisture is critical to runoff next year. And, the higher it is going into winter, the better off we are.”

Julander says there have been a few negative impacts because of the August rains, including flash flooding and hay too soggy to harvest.

But William Merkley, assistant manager of the IFA farm store in Roosevelt, says things looked bleak through July.

“We went for months and months without any sort of significant, measurable rainfall,” he says. “And then all the sudden they turned the tap on in August, and so it’s been wonderful that way.”

The land is providing plenty of nutritious food for cows and sheep as they come in from their summer range. Merkly says cows and calves are fetching unusually high prices at market.

This graphic looks at precipitation this August compared with the 30-year average.
Credit Courtesy: NCRS

  “So people are going to be looking to be spending money this fall,” he says. “And, if you are in the retail business with farming and ranching and livestock equipment, that’s a good thing. That’s a very good thing.”

Utah has no areas anymore that are suffering from “extreme” or “exceptional” drought, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor. Most of the state is the less ominous categories of dryness and a few areas, like most of Grand County, no longer have any drought designation.