SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's drought situation has improved slightly, Governor Spencer Cox said.
Recent monsoons have improved soil moisture, which means that any snow that comes this winter is more likely to go into reservoirs, the governor told reporters at his monthly news conference on PBS.
In addition, Utahns have stepped up and conserved billions of gallons of water over the summer, reducing the need for water rationing next year.
"If we do have drought conditions extending into next year, we will have drinking water available," the governor said.
Long-term forecasts warn that Utah's drought could extend into next year. The Utah Department of Natural Resources told FOX 13 it has recommended extending the state of emergency for drought.
But Gov. Cox also said water policy changes will be coming to deal with drought and increased demands on Utah as a result of growth. He told reporters that more needs to be done to protect the Great Salt Lake.
The governor said he recently asked Utah's cities and towns to look at their ordinances to see what can be done to conserve water.
"We need every city to go back and look at their policies on the books. It’s one thing not to require xeriscaping or low water use landscape, it’s another thing to make them illegal," Gov. Cox said. "And we have many communities where it’s actually illegal to not put grass in, to not have water wise landscaping, which is crazy to me."
Some communities, like St. George, have been doing reviews of their ordinances and actively removing lush, green lawn spaces on public property because it hogs so much water. Golf courses in the resort community have also been pared down.
The governor said the state is also pursuing incentives for farmers and ranches to encourage them to plant water-efficient crops and get better technologies that use less water. Utah will also pursue new reservoirs and aquifers to plan for future growth.
Gov. Cox said he still supports the Lake Powell Pipeline project, a controversial plan to provide expanded water access in southwestern Utah. However, the governor acknowledged discussions still needed to take place on projects like that and how much the state gets from the Colorado River.