Gov. Cox issues another emergency drought order for Utah

Apr 21, 2022, 6:52 PM | Updated: May 12, 2022, 8:47 am
Colorado River Basin...
FILE: Low water levels at Lake Powell, December 18, 2021. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)
(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns are being told to brace themselves for another potentially drought year.  Governor Spencer Cox issued another emergency drought declaration for Utah for the second year in a row.

Despite recent storms, and future ones, Cox said the state didn’t get enough snow in the mountains to make up from last year’s severe drought.  However, he said Utahns drastically reduced the amount of water they were giving their lawns in 2021, which saved billions of gallons.

Utah emergency drought

During his monthly press conference, Cox said, “Last summer, I asked Utahns to pray for rain, which helped, but we’re certainly not relying solely on deity to solve our problems.”

Cox said the state has been in a drought for the past 10 years. And that the snowpack is roughly 25 percent lower than it would normally be.  Most of the streams water officials have measured are running at below normal. Over 93 percent of the state is in “severe drought” or worse.

“Right now, our statewide reservoir storage is at about 59 percent of capacity,” Cox said.

In 2021, some conservancy districts turned off their secondary water early. And some small towns had to bring in drinking water by truck.  Utah Division of Water Resources Drought Coordinator Laura Haskell said most of the state’s water is used inside homes, so cutting back on lawn watering and waiting until dishwashers and washing machines are full can help conserve a lot. 

Could we run out of drinking water?

“There aren’t areas that I’m aware of, right now, that are going to run out of drinking water,” Haskell said.  “That is something that, especially with the drought response committee, it is at the top of the list of priorities.”

Haskell said some cities may have to find creative ways to bring in more water. However, the emergency drought declaration can allow the state to look at ways to redistribute more to areas that are in trouble.  Plus, it allows the state to bring more water out of the ground.

She said, “The state engineer can authorize funds for drilling emergency wells.”

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Gov. Cox issues another emergency drought order for Utah