OGDEN -- There will be lots of water available to water lawns, make lemonade, take baths and generally keep the Wasatch Front wet this summer, but don't thank Utah's winter.
Absent a drastic change, the winter's contribution to the situation will be minimal at best.
"In terms of overall snowpack and water supply, the bottom line is we expect a very poor runoff season," said Randy Julander, supervisor of the Utah Snow Survey, National Resources Conservation Service.
"Soil moisture is very dry, our snowpack, as everyone knows, is reasonably low."
Those two, combined, make for a horrible runoff.
Julander realizes how drastic this change is. Just a year ago he was issuing flood warnings all along the Wasatch Front as the mountains groaned under record snowfall.
This year, reflecting a national trend of mild weather all winter, the mountain drainages that feed the Wasatch Front are bare. Snowstorms in January doubled the year's snowpack, he said.
But for irrigators and other water users, there's just as much water this year as last.
"The saving grace is the reservoir storage," Julander said. "Reservoirs, for the end of January, actually have more water in them this year than last."
The Utah Climate and Water Report, which Julander issued Thursday, is mostly aimed at farmers and irrigators, but the information it contains also shows what everyone else can expect.
Soil moisture in the mountains is a critical factor for runoff. If the soil is dry, it will soak up water from melting snow before excess can run down to reservoirs.
November and December were dry, so there was little rainfall to soak the soil before winter set in. SnoTel readings from machines in the mountains show January's snowstorms brought precipitation in the Weber River drainage up to 74 percent of normal.
However, the water in that snow is only at 68 percent of normal. On top of soil that only has a 10 to 20 percent soil moisture content, much of that will be lost soaking in, Julander said.
Fortunately, he said, the reservoirs themselves don't need a lot of runoff to be full again.
The Bureau of Reclamation reports that, as of Thursday, Pineview Reservoir is 78 percent full, Willard Bay is 92 percent, Causey is at 80 percent, Lost Creek is at 88 percent, Echo Reservoir is the lowest at 69 percent and East Canyon is 90 percent.
"If you look at it like a bank account, you've got your savings in the bank, and you've got your cash flow," Julander said. "The runoff is your cash flow, but you can draw from your savings account, and we will be depending heavily on the savings."
When full, Utah's reservoirs hold enough so that, with proper conservation methods, the state can get through two years with no more snow or rainfall. That has never happened, but it means that, this year, the water supply should be adequate even with a small runoff.
So far, there is no sign that things will change.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Nanette Hosenfeld said Thursday that the split jet stream that has taken storms north and south, but left Utah dry, is still having an impact. Small storm fronts that went through the state this week, including one that dusted the Top of Utah with snow Thursday, hit more in Nevada and other areas west.
For Utah, she said, "There's nothing significant in the outlook."
Julander said he's never seen the state's water supply fall off a cliff from one year to the next, like it has this year.
He has seen very dry weather suddenly turn extremely wet, as it did between 2004 and 2005, ending the drought that had gripped the state since 1999, but not the other way.
At least not until this year.
"But that is climate, that is weather, that is Utah."