HYRUM – Area farmers are looking to the heavens for drought relief in the way of precipitation to water their dry ground and keep crops going another year.
Gary Henry, from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said although he works mostly with reservoirs what he is seeing is, generally, the rivers throughout the state are running below normal.
“We are quite dry because we haven’t had real measurable precipitation since last June. Our rivers are running quite a bit below normal,” he said. “We don’t anticipate any of the rivers in the state getting to normal stream flows this year.”
Henry said the snowpack is about 70 percent below normal across the state, which negatively effects the rivers.
Ryan Rowland is a U.S. Geological Survey supervisory hydrologist surveillance section or data chief who oversees the stream gaging program in Utah and has noticed a lower water flow than normal.
“We run a lot of stream gages in Utah to check stream flows,” he said. “The three important gages in Cache Valley are on Logan River, the Blacksmith Fork River and the Little Bear River at Paradise.”
He said right now all those gages are showing below normal flows.
“It’s not surprising that our flows are down,” he said. “We are in a drought, but we just had a major event or rain and if we get more it could turn things around.”
Jordan Clayton, a snow data collection officer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Recourses, has an interactive map for the state of Utah that shows the snowpack in Utah is averaging about 63 percent of normal.
“It is well below average across the state and some parts of Utah are worse than others,” he said. “The lack of snow is almost alarming.”
Clayton said the upper Blacksmith Fork is about 67 percent of the snow water equivalent; the Logan River is showing 63 percent and the Bear River drainage is at about 70 percent of normal for this time of year.
“The thing that is alarming is the soils underneath are so dry that the snow melt is going into the ground instead of the rivers and streams,” he said. “That is how parched the headwaters are.”
In the 20 years NCRS has been testing soil moisture this year is the driest the soil has been.
“It’s going to be a tough year from a water perspective,” Clayton said. “The upside is that is why we have reservoirs, but we need to be cognizant of how much water we use. A lot of water managers are probably going to practice conservation this year.”
Kirt Lindley is the water tender at the Hyrum Dam that serves 3,500 shareholders. He said the dam is full and things look pretty good for the water users in the Wellsville Mendon Canal companies.
Lindley is trying to regulate the water and keep the reservoir full until the farmers need it.
“We had water going over the spillway and I’ve opened up the gates to let some of the water out so the dam will stay full,” he said. “We should have as much water as we normally do for the Wellsville Mendon Canal Company’s 3500 water users.”
They should have 90-days’ worth of water they can take out of the Hyrum Dam. He said they won’t start counting until they are done spilling water.
Lindley said he worries about farmers depending on the rivers for irrigation water.
He said on the Little Bear there was an increase in the flows during the recent rains, but the warm weather didn’t increase the flow as much as area farmers would have hoped.
“A lot of the runoff is going into the ground before it hits the river,” Lindley said. “The canal companies that depend on the rivers are going to be short, I don’t think the rivers are running like they usually do.”
He said prayers for water could be helpful about now.
Jared Clawson is a Hyrum City Councilman and on several water boards on the south end of the valley. He gets some of his water from Porcupine Reservoir.
“Porcupine is probably 60 percent full,” Clawson said. “The low water will effect Paradise City, Hyrum City irrigation companies and the Highline Canal company.”
Clawson said the High Line Canal company affects Avon, too.
“We need to tell people to start conserving water now,” he said. “People generally water their grass too much.”
If it gets a brown spot don’t worry, it will come back. He said not having enough water is going to have a huge economic impact on area farmers.
“Once the crop is in the ground it needs water,” Clawson said. “Most people grow hay or grain. This year we may have to shut down the sprinklers for a while and do our best to keep things from dying.”
He said since they built the Porcupine Dam in the early 60’s they have had four or five lean years where drought has kept it from filling.
“About five years we had a similar thing happen, it was a drought,” Clawson said. “We had a meeting and before the meeting was over it started to sprinkle, and it rained for several weeks.”
They ended up having a great harvest that year.
“We have to watch the soil moisture and we may have to make some hard decisions this year,” Clawson said. “Everyone needs to pray for rain, do a rain dance or try whatever their religion tells them to do.”