SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Spencer Cox will allow Utah's state of emergency for drought to expire at the end of this month, after the legislature declined to take any action to renew it.
In a brief interview with FOX 13 on Tuesday, the governor said he would let it lapse on Oct. 31.
"Obviously we’re not out of the woods yet. We’ve got a long ways to go," Gov. Cox said of the drought. "But we’ll watch how these next few months play out. We’ll have conversations with the legislature and if and when we need to renew that. I’m sure we’ll get support to do it."
The past year has been brutal on the state with reservoirs running dry and some small towns running out of drinking water. The Great Salt Lake hit a new record low. Utahns were urged to cut outdoor lawn watering and local water districts shut off secondary water supplies earlier than usual to preserve drinking water supplies.
Utah's Department of Natural Resources had recommended the state of emergency be extended until the end of this year. But at a September meeting of the legislature's interim Natural Resources Committee, one lawmaker expressed his displeasure with ongoing states of emergency and lawmakers took no action. Not extending the state of emergency for drought potentially could impact some funding. If the drought emergency continues into next year, the state has signaled it will prioritize drinking water and sanitization.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the legislature changed the laws so that they, not the governor, can extend a state of emergency.
"The Legislature extended the drought state of emergency until October 31 based on the Utah Department of Natural Resources recommendations. The Senate is committed to water conservation and is looking at ways to better conserve and prepare for future droughts, as well as taking the needed steps to retain water supplies during our current drought," the Utah State Senate said in a statement to FOX 13.
The governor said if needed, he would issue a new state of emergency for the drought. The long-term forecast models are showing Utah's drought continuing into next year, although the new water year is off to a good start.