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Cox issues drought state of emergency effective immediately

Posted at 10:09 AM, Apr 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-21 19:18:58-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Spencer Cox issued a new state of emergency for drought ahead of warm summer months that could see Utah's water supply limited.

FOX 13 News first reported earlier this week the governor was warning a new state of emergency was likely. He sped up the declaration after meeting with legislative leadership.

"These spring storms are helping. We have an amazing storm that’s coming over the next few days, all those will help. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to get us out of the drought," the governor told reporters at his monthly news conference on PBS Utah.

Cox issues drought state of emergency effective immediately

Statewide, reservoirs are at 59% capacity (some like Lake Powell are 24% of capacity now). Snowpack has peaked two weeks early and 25% below normal. The Great Salt Lake remains at a record low.

The latest drought monitoring map shows that nearly all of Utah is in some form of drought. Roughly 40% of the state is in "extreme" drought.

But the governor said Utahns have been very good at conserving.

"There were some eye-popping conservation numbers and our water managers were all shocked at how well Utahns did last year. So we’re hoping a repeat performance this year," Gov. Cox said.

Asked if the state was going to impose restrictions, Gov. Cox said he would leave it to local water districts to decide.

"Just like last year those will be taken on a district by district, case by case scenario. Every district has different storage capacity," he said.

Some local water districts are already starting to impose restrictions. The Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, which covers five counties, said it would limit outdoor water for residents and agriculture producers. The district was also taking the unusual step of asking residents to cut indoor water use by 10%.

Scott Paxman, the district's CEO, said residents have been great at conserving, but he feared a "rough year." Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall told FOX 13 News she would have city-owned facilities cut water use by 14% this year, but said residents have been so good at voluntary conservation she did not see the need to impose any restrictions. Still, the city has already moved to "Stage 2" drought restrictions.

The state emergency declaration will free up resources for communities who might be significantly impacted by a drought. But mostly, the governor said, it was designed to get Utahns' attention about the drought situation and get them to conserve.

Utah's Department of Natural Resources has said it is too soon to be doing any outdoor watering.

"Wou won’t be able to turn on your tap if we don’t manage our water and the people of Utah know that. We live in a desert. They can see the snowpack," Gov. Cox said.