Summer rain offers slight reprieve, but drought conditions remain

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ST GEORGE, Utah - Summer monsoons have brought a slight reprieve from drought conditions across the state, but water district managers said it’s a far cry from what’s needed.

“Our soil moisture conditions are extremely dry,” said Washington County Water Conservancy District general manager Ron Thompson. “And our river flow are significantly below normal.”

The latest numbers from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s August report show the Virgin River has a 19 percent water availability index, meaning the amount of water available for use is significantly below normal. Seasonal precipitation for the area is at 61 percent of normal.

Those summer monsoons are a welcome sight for farmers. Thompson said it doesn’t compare to a strong winter snow pack, reservoir storage is at 53 percent.

“What you really have in the drainage is you continue to lose reservoir storage," Thompson said. “That’s what you build reservoirs for."

Those ongoing drought conditions are one reason the WCWCD and three other water districts throughout the state are partnering with the Salt Lake Chamber to make sure there’s enough water to sustain the business economy.

“In Utah, every acre-foot of water sustains in terms of gross municipal product about $120,000 a year,” Thompson said.

The campaign stems from Governor Gary Herbert’s resolution to ensure there is enough water to meet growth demands. Washington County economic development group Site Select Plus’ executive director Scott Hirschi said this area is a strong voice in that discussion. Businesses in southern Utah have had to learn the hard way to do more with less water.

That partnership will focus on rallying business leaders, finding solutions, and looking at infrastructure needs.

More information on the chamber’s partnership can be found here