Unwelcome Utah Dryness This Season

From stores stocked with holiday decorations, to seasonal music all over the radio, it is impossible to ignore that we are heading into the holiday season. Yet, one of the most telling signs of a Wasatch Front winter has been conspicuously lacking this year: snow. Indeed, November 5, the average day of first snowfall in Salt Lake City, came and went without a whisper of snow. The first flakes only appeared several weeks later.

Since that first small storm, precipitation has been suspiciously lacking. This, unfortunately, is neither a surprise nor unusual for this year. In October, Governor Gary Herbert declared a drought emergency for all of Utah. Before this, six Utah counties had already declared their own drought disasters, undoubtedly brought on by the dry summer and the equally dry winter last year. These declarations seem a bit superfluous in light of the obvious signs that come with low precipitation. Everyone that stepped outside over the summer likely could tell that rainstorms were few and far between. The wildfires that dotted the state were even more telling indicators that it was a hot and dry season.

While I certainly appreciate being able to go outside without getting my feet soaked, the lack of precipitation has started to make me worried. Utah has always had an interesting relationship with water. Like most places in the western United States, Utah is generally a dry state. A relatively large area of it is desert, after all. It would seem, then, that Utahns would be forced to contend with the knowledge that water is a finite resource that is always subject to change. The truth is, water here in Salt Lake County is actually greatly over-allocated. If everyone decided to use all the water they were technically allowed, the water supply would quickly run out. This is obviously disturbing news in the wake of a drought that shows no signs of letting up. Luckily, nobody actually uses all the water they have access to, and thus the water rights issue is left in limbo. With the current lack of precipitation, however, this problem becomes a much more pressing issue for the city.

In the time between deciding to write this article and it being published, Salt Lake finally got snow that has actually managed to stick around for more than a day. What can I say? Apparently the solution to the drought is to bring attention to it. Yay! Problem solved!

But in all actuality (and you all know where I’m going with this), anyone can choose to believe what they like, but climate change is presenting its evidence very openly, and I, for one, find it to be a very compelling argument. It becomes hard to ignore that weather patterns are changing when seasons pass by, drier than the last, and when fires ravage the landscape because there is little to no snowpack to delay the undergrowth drying out. Unfortunately, this is a problem that will not be solved in one day, but we can do our part to help with the issues facing Utah now. Despite how dire some of my statements seem, the Wasatch Front isn’t suddenly going to stop having water one day. Nearby reservoirs still contain water, and it will take some time before this water has been used up. Still, it’s not a bad idea to conserve water where you are able. It is a drought after all. Taking shorter showers or only running full laundry loads are two of many easy ways to decrease water consumption. Do what you can to help Utah through this dry spell, and enjoy the beauty of the snow when we do have it this winter.

Pictures: Cover, 1, 2, 3