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Utah's drought conditions keep worsening

Utah drought
Posted at 12:15 PM, May 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-05 14:15:52-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's drought status keeps worsening, with 99 percent of the state considered to be in the second and third worst categories: "Severe" and "extreme drought," according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Only one category is lower, signifying "exceptional drought."

Utah drought map
Orange areas indicate severe drought, and red areas indicate extreme drought.

Drought conditions stressing the Utah's natural resources, impacting wildlife, rangeland, recreation and the state’s reservoir storage.

“Our lands are tinder dry, and with May and June forecasted to be hotter and drier than previous years, we are also gearing up for a challenging wildfire season,” said Brian Steed, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources. “We need people to continue to conserve to stretch our limited water supply and exercise good Fire Sense to reduce the risk of human-caused wildfires.”

Key findings from the drought report are the following:

  • Weber Basin Water Conservancy District has received very little new storage during the last two years and is expected to receive very little again this year. Therefore, they have reduced the amount of water they intend to deliver to contract holders this year.
  • Great Salt Lake typically drops a little over 2 feet each summer. With a current elevation of  4191, this would mean the lake could hit a new historic low.
  • Ongoing drought conditions have significantly impacted deer survival rates, so the Utah Wildlife Board voted to decrease the number of general-season deer permits issued. A total of 73,075 general-season deer hunting permits will be issued, a 950-permit decrease from the previous year. 
  • Statewide snow water equivalent (SWE), or how much water would be in the snowpack if it melted, peaked at 12 inches. This is 75% of the typical median peak of 16 inches. 
  • Twenty-two of Utah’s largest 45 reservoirs are below 55% of available capacity. Overall statewide storage is 60% of capacity. This time last year, reservoirs were about 67% of capacity. 
  • Of the 96 measured streams, 56 are flowing below normal despite spring runoff. Five streams are flowing at record low conditions. Due to low snowpack, streamflows are expected to be lower than normal.
  • Current drought conditions have created drier fuels which in turn increase the chance of a wildfire starts. To date, there have been 97 wildfires in Utah that have burned approximately 256 acres. Out of the 97 wildfires this year, 88 have been human-caused.