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A regional public media collaboration serving the Rocky Mountain States of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Utah And Colorado Are Parched As Spring Begins

Drought has basically divided the Mountain West into two separate regions this year.

Storms kept Idaho, Montana and Wyoming wet over the winter, and the national Drought Monitor shows no drought in those states.

But high pressure dogged Utah and most of Colorado this winter. Now the ground is dry and the snowpack is lean, even though March was stormy.

“The long term is what concerns us,” said Craig Laub, who raises hay and grain in southern Utah.

He said the short term doesn’t worry local farmers. They can irrigate their crops like he does with water from aquifers.

“We just haven’t had any recharge, so we’re having to lower our pumps every year to go deeper for the water,” Laub said.

Utah and Colorado have endured about a year of unusually dry weather, thanks to high-pressure systems that acted like storm barriers.

Brian McInerney, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City, said a wet winter last year helped top off the reservoirs that store water for drinking and irrigation.

“I think we’re okay this year,” he said. “I think if we look at the 2018 water year, what we’ll find is low snowpack but adequate reservoir storage.”

The National Climate Prediction Center is forecasting that the drought will persist this spring in both Utah and Colorado.

Credit National Climate Prediction Center
This map shows what forecasters at the National Climate Prediction Center are anticipating for about three months.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.  

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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