12 Utah counties designated primary natural disaster areas due to water shortage

Posted at 9:04 PM, Jan 24, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-24 23:04:10-05

HURRICANE, Utah - It’s still early in the year, but water district directors in southern Utah say unless things change, they’re predicting a drought worse than what has been seen in years past

The Washington County Water Conservancy District said water levels are currently at around 60 percent of normal. Despite an early winter storm that dropped several inches, the mountains are looking bare.

“Without the snow, it really puts us in a terrible, terrible situation,” Hurricane farmer and rancher Justin Reeve said. He’s one of many who depend on that water for their livelihood.

“You put those seeds in the ground, and you just hope and pray and pray for rain,” Reeve said. “And hope everything turns out.”

The situation is so bleak, last week the US Department of Agriculture designated 12 Utah counties as primary natural disaster areas. That means federal funds are available to farmers and ranchers in those areas

There are ways to try to conserve water. For farmers, that may mean planting smaller fields or fewer crops. Either way, that translates to lost profit. Ranchers may get hit worse if they can’t grow food for their livestock.

WCWCD associate general manager Corey Cram said the water shortage is something all Washington County residents should keep in mind, and he said they should try to conserve.

“All of this is tied together,” Cram said. “Whether its agriculture, or our public water supply, or recreation on our reservoirs, so we need to be looking forward with not just a short-term perspective. “

It all depends on Mother Nature, and while it is gamble, farmers like Reeve said there’s nothing else they’d rather do.

This area typically sees a number of spring storms, so there’s still time to partially recover, but if the skies don’t open up soon, it’s going to be tough for many to turn a profit.