May was another rough month for precipitation in Utah’s valley locations, where the statewide average precipitation ticked up just 0.3 inches, according to the June 1 monthly water and climate report compiled by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
In southeastern Utah, precipitation in May was much below average at 12%, which brings the seasonal accumulation (October to May) to 84% of average. Soil moisture is at 47% compared to 87% last year. Reservoir storage is at 74% of capacity, compared to 110% last year. The water availability index for Moab is 26%, according to a report from NRCS.
As a statewide average, the water year total for Utah’s lower elevations now stands at just six inches. This, coupled with very high temperatures, has caused a further deterioration in drought conditions and subsequent increase in fire danger. Specifically, the percentage of Utah under drought conditions increased to about 90% of the state in May. Furthermore, the area of severe drought increased to about 15% of the state. On average, soil moisture conditions are significantly below normal and soil temperatures are very high.
Utah’s mountain locations have received below average precipitation this water year. As of June 1, the water-year-to-date (October through May) precipitation is 81% of average. The last couple months have been particularly dry: precipitation at SNOTEL sites during May was only 31% of average, officials reported. This has led to early melting of the snowpack and subsequent early drying of soil moisture conditions in Utah’s mountains. Currently, the statewide mountain soil moisture is at 65% of saturation, compared to 84% last year at this time. The dry soils have been accompanied by above-average air temperatures, resulting in soil temperatures that are well above normal. In several regions of the state, soil temperatures are higher than any previous observations for this time of year. “These warm, dry soils are a concern as we head into the summer fire hazard season,” officials reported.
Still, Utah’s reservoirs are in good condition: statewide reservoir storage is at 89% of capacity, compared to 82% last year. “Much of this has to do with excellent carryover from last year’s outstanding snowpack and runoff,” said officials.