Calls to conserve water as records show ski resorts used more than usual for snowmaking

KUTV Snow machines in action 110717.JPG

(KUTV) -- You've seen the weather reports on the news. Even if you haven't, you've looked out your window and you know, this has been a lousy winter year for Utah’s snow pack. State and local water experts are beating the familiar drum of water conservation.

The call came to Get Gephardt from a skier who noticed that, based on his experience, the snow making machines at some of Utah's ski resorts appear to be on more than what is usual most winters.

Through public records, we confirmed water usage is up for all of the ski resorts in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons.

Alta more than doubled its water to more than 48-million gallons in the 2017-2018 ski season.

Brighton and Solitude's usage is also up, year to year.

Snowbird has used the most water in the season so far, with more than 68-million gallons.

Jesse Stewart with Salt Lake City's public utilities says, yes, it's true that the snowmakers have been switched on more this year than in most past recent years - but he says that's not necessarily a bad thing.

About 80 percent will melt and go back into the water system if ski resorts are making snow, compacting it and keeping it on the slopes, that snow will melt later.

“[The water] will come melt off later in the summer for us. That's good for us,” Stewart said.

Salt Lake City's Water Resource Engineer Larry Alserda confirmed as we watched, the snowpack is in bad shape. It sits at about 46 percent of normal. Still, Stewart says folks downstream shouldn’t panic about whether or not they will be able to water their lawns or take a shower this summer.

“We're looking good because of last year's snowfall, so some of our reservoirs looking good,” he said. “I think we're okay this year for water.”

Stewart says next summer could be a different story – depending on how wet next winter is. If it’s dry, 2019 could be rough. So, he asked that, in reporting this story, we continue to beat the drum on Salt Lake City’s behalf: Turn off those faucets while brushing. Take short showers. Don’t over water your lawn. Conserve, conserve, conserve.

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