Things are getting pretty dry around here. How dry? Looking at the gauges on the rivers in our watershed area, we see that the streamflow is only about half of average for this time of year. According to Dr. Van Kirk of the Henry’s Fork Foundation, the streamflow at the end of last week was in the bottom 10th percentile of all years on record at most gauges in our watershed, some data going back 100 years or more. Couple that with the water equivalent of snow left in the mountains around us being only 55% of average, and you understand the concern. In response, reservoirs are being filled to capacity to get us through what is shaping up to be a very dry time in the West.
At a time when we are often nervously looking at the level of the Teton River as it approaches the four-foot flood level near Driggs, we find it hovering just over the one-foot level this year. At the rain gauge north of the airport in Driggs, I have measured a grand total of 0.12 inch of rain halfway through a month that normally brings us a good 2 inches of rain.
So is it time to use the D-word? Yes, according to the NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System. Parts of Southeast Idaho are already in the moderate to severe category, while states to our south are largely in the extreme to exceptional drought level.
There is hope for some significant rain late this week, and we hope it comes without the thunderstorms that spark wildfires in dry conditions like these. But getting enough rain to make a dent in the drought conditions is not likely given the Climate Prediction Center’s long-term outlook calling for drier than normal conditions lasting all summer and into the fall.
With a hot, dry summer on the horizon, it’s definitely time to think about water conservation measures you might be able to take and to start clearing brush to create defensible space against wildfire around your property. Hope for the best but plan for the worst.