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Utah megadrought
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Emergency order extended for drought, Utah Farm Bureau praying for rain

(Low water levels are pictured in Echo Reservoir north of Coalville on Thursday, May 6, 2021. Photo: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s one of the worst water situations the state has seen in three decades.  The governor is extending his executive order declaring a state of emergency due to drought conditions, and water watchers say our scenario is far worse than people most people would believe. 

Drought emergency compounded by low precipitation

Several small problems combine to make one huge one when it comes to our water situation.  For one, precipitation is extremely low.  Utah Snow Survey Supervisor Jordan Clayton says if we were in the 50th percentile, that would be considered average.

“Right now, we’ve entered a domain were we’re below what we could call 0th percentile,” he said. 

Clayton also says the monitors placed along many streams in northern Utah show very little movement. Many streams are getting little to no snowmelt.

“I think most alarmingly is our runoff forecasts are for between 15 and 40 percent of normal streamflow,” he says.

Snowpack providing little relief

Extremely dry mountain soils are the biggest reason for the ineffective runoff.  Clayton says a lot of the water is being absorbed into the dirt.

“What we were afraid of is the water coming out of our snowpack was going to drain into the soil but just replenish what was there and not actually get much further downstream,” Clayton said.  “That’s exactly what’s happening, right now.”

Statewide, reservoirs measure roughly 15% lower than usual, and forecasters predict some of our basins will receive just 25% of what they normally do in any given year.

“We’re at the point where we just haven’t seen the state looking this dry over the last 30 years,” Clayton said.

Farmers, ranchers band together in weekend of prayer

Utah farmers and ranchers are banding together in prayer this weekend as they grapple with one of the worst water situations in decades. Utah Farm Bureau president Ron Gibson, a dairy farmer in Weber County, says this is truly a historic drought.

“It was the driest winter that I’ve ever seen in my fifty years and my dad says it’s about the driest that he’s ever seen,” he explains. “We’re working really hard to try to keep this all moving and going forward, but we can’t do it without the natural resources that make that possible.”

He says Utah farmers are doing everything possible to maximize low-water crops, although it isn’t a sustainable solution.

“From my own perspective, I’ve done just about everything I can do from a water conservation standpoint,” says Gibson. “There’s not anyone who can fix this except for the guy upstairs.”

This weekend I will join Ron Gibson and Utah Farm Bureau Federation in a day of fast and prayer for rain.

Our farmers and ranchers are suffering. Please join me in asking God to bless our desert.

Posted by Congressman Chris Stewart on Friday, May 14, 2021

The Utah Farm Bureau is now preparing for a weekend of fasting and prayer for rain. Congressman Chris Stewart has already announced on Facebook that he plans on participating in the effort. 

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