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Record breaking rain won’t break the Utah drought, but it’s helping

Four inches of rain fell on Delta in less than 24 hours over Tuesday, Aug. 17 and Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. Photo: Deborah Willoughby

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah drought got an assist this week from a monsoonal storm that poured water across the state. In some instances, the rain is breaking records for rainfall totals.

August 19, 2021: Image provided by KSL Meteorologist Grant Weyman.

For example, an area on Cedar Canyon Road near Cedar Breaks National Monument in Iron County saw more than 7 inches of rainfall over the last two days. 

In Delta, Utah, the National Weather Service reported that four inches of rain fell within a 16-hour period between Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. That city’s previous 24-hour record was 1.45 inches.

August 19, 2021: Image provided by KSL Meteorologist Grant Weyman.

The city of New Harmony also got more than five inches yesterday. Murray and Suncrest got around four inches. Lehi saw four and a half inches of rain.

The rainfall has some Utahns asking if Utah will be lifted out of our megadrought.

Not quite yet.

Rain and Utah’s megadrought

BYU geology professor Matt Bekker told KSL Newsradio that a megadrought occurs when an area has been in drought conditions for at least 19 years. The National Integrated Drought Information System reports that Utah has been under drought conditions since 2000.

So this drought is well-established.

Image from the National Integrated Drought Information System accessed 08-19-2021.

According to a report from the Deseret News, Utah will need nearly 12 inches of rainfall between now and the time the snow falls to be considered at “normal” precipitation levels. The Deseret News reports that Utah water managers don’t expect the state to receive that much more water before winter.

The end of the Utah drought starts with soaking rain

So Utah will likely remain in drought despite this week’s rainfall, but there is some really good news. 

The U.S. Geological Survey says that “soaking rains are the best medicine to alleviate drought.” Here’s what happens, water enters the soil and recharges the groundwater. That water feeds crops and streams when it’s not raining.

The USGS also says that multiple soaking rainshowers may be needed to return an area to a normal precipitation range.

KSL Meteorologist Grant Weyman agrees.

“This is all helping the really dry soil. Anything to help get a solid snowpack and good spring runoff next year into the reservoirs,” said Weyman.

One more benefit to all of this rain is that you can put your sprinkler system on rain delay (which is also great for our reservoirs).

And maybe do some weeding, which is easier when the soil is wet.

Finally, yet another benefit of Utah’s recent storms? Snow in the high country, for those who eagerly await a Utah winter. 

Photo credit: @captainfranc


Simone Seikaly contributed