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Growing Utah drought conditions spur Cox to pray for rain

SALT LAKE CITY — Worsening drought conditions in Utah prompted Gov. Spencer Cox to ask state residents of all faiths and backgrounds to join him in praying for rain. 

Cox released a video encouraging Utah residents to pray with him. 

“I’ve already asked all Utahns to conserve water by avoiding long showers, fixing leaky faucets and planting water-wise landscapes,” Cox said in the video. “But I fear those efforts alone won’t be enough to protect us.” 

Utah drought conditions getting worse

The National Integrated Drought Information System hosts the US Drought Monitor, which shows current and historic drought monitoring across the country. NIDIS categorizes dryness state-by-state in terms of “abnormally dry,” “moderate drought,” “severe drought,” “extreme drought” or “exceptional drought.” Those terms signal the severity of the drought in a specific location.

utah drought conditions on us drought monitor

The US Drought Monitor, from NIDIS, is updated every Thursday. Screen grab from https://www.drought.gov/states/utah

When NIDIS declares an area “abnormally dry,” that indicates limited water for cattle and struggling “dryland crops.” Currently, 100% of Utah is labeled abnormally dry. 

At the “moderate drought” level, NIDIS reports low soil moisture and poor winter wheat germination, as well as drying springs and limited cattle feed. According to the US Drought Monitor, 100% of Utah currently registers in moderate drought.  

In “severe drought” conditions, NIDIS says people can expect poor air quality as a result of dust as well as drying streams and ponds. Additionally, ranching management practices must change because of inadequate pasture and water for cattle. Currently, 97.9% of Utah registers in severe drought. 

At “extreme drought,” which accounts for 90.2% of the state, NIDIS reports an increased risk of fire and implements bans of fires on public lands. In addition, the agency says native vegetation — for Utah, that would be wild grasses and sagebrush, for example — become stressed. Finally, extreme drought brings decreased streamflow. 

utah drought conditions map

This map from NIDIS displays current US Drought Monitor conditions, which are updated weekly. All of the state of Utah is in some form of drought, but for some areas, it’s considered exceptional. Screen grab from https://www.drought.gov/states/utah

Finally, the most severe category, “exceptional drought,” means more fire restrictions and cuts to irrigation-water allotments. In Utah, the drought monitor shows 62.2%  of the state in exceptional drought. 

Cox: Pray for rain to end the drought

Ultimately, Cox said, the current drought conditions in Utah will not improve without rain. 

 

“We need some divine intervention. And by praying collaboratively and collectively, asking God or whatever higher power you believe in for more rain, we may be able to escape the deadliest aspects of the continuing drought,” he continued. 

Prior to the video plea for prayer Thursday, Cox previously issued an emergency declaration, later extending it, related to Utah drought conditions. At that time, the Utah Farm Bureau announced farmers and ranchers began to pray for rain. 

Additionally, several Utah cities are considering whether to place restrictions on residential water use. 

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