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Health, Science & Environment
KUER’s Southeast Utah Bureau is based in San Juan County. The Southwest Utah Bureau is based in the St. George area. Both initiatives focus on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues, faith and spirituality and other topics of relevance to Utahns.

Washington County Reservoirs Likely Won’t Reach Capacity This Year. What Does That Mean For Recreation?

A photo of Sand Hollow reservoir.
thehippietriathlete
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Flickr
Sand Hollow State Park had over 1.3 million visitors in 2020. Parks across the state had record-breaking visitation numbers.

More people are visiting reservoirs in Washington County, but there’s less water there to greet them because of exceptional drought conditions in the region.

Water levels are expected to only reach around 80% capacity for Sand Hollow and Quail Creek reservoirs, according to Zach Renstrom, general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District.

He said there haven’t been significant monsoons in the region the past two years — and that’s led soil moisture to reach its lowest levels in 20 years. Spring runoff this year will mostly be absorbed by the soil, resulting in less water going to the reservoirs. He said this is the first time in years they haven’t been completely filled.

“If it compounds and continues to be dry after dry, those reservoirs will just continue to drop and in the spring it will be harder to get them up where we need them to be,” Renstrom said.

The reservoirs hold drinking and irrigation water for Washington County residents. They’re also recreational hotspots. Sand Hollow was the most visited state park in Utah last year with over 1.3 million visitors, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

Wayne Monroe, southwest regional manager for the Utah Division of State Parks and Recreation, said extremely low water levels means less surface area for people to recreate on, which leads to congestion out on the reservoirs. But less water isn’t always a bad thing for visitors.

“[Lower water levels] do give us more beach space and expose that sandy beach and areas for folks to spread out and enjoy it,” Monroe said. “So that's a good thing. As long as we're not in extremes.”

Last year was a record-breaking one for the number of people who visited state parks in Utah. Monroe said he expects the upward trend to continue this year.

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