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Cox Declares a Drought Related State of Emergency, Which Takes Effect Immediately

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Governor Spencer Cox declared a new drought state of emergency ahead of the hot summer months, which might reduce Utah’s water supplies.

FOX 13 News initially reported earlier this week that the governor was considering a fresh state of emergency. After meeting with state leaders, he accelerated the declaration.

“The spring storms are assisting. We have an incredible storm coming in the next several days, so all of that will help. Unfortunately, it is insufficient to get us out of the drought.” The governor made the announcement during his monthly news conference, which aired on PBS Utah.

Reservoirs around the state are at 59% capacity (some like Lake Powell are 24 percent of capacity now). The snowpack peaked two weeks early and is 25% below average. The Great Salt Lake is still at an all-time low.

According to the most recent drought monitoring map, practically the whole state of Utah is experiencing some sort of drought. Approximately 40% of the state is in “severe” drought.

However, the governor stated that Utahns are excellent conservationists.

“There were some startling conservation figures, and our water managers were all astounded by how well Utahns performed last year. As a result, we’re looking for a similar performance this year,” Cox stated.

When asked if the state would impose limitations, Gov. Cox indicated he would defer to local water districts.

“Those, as last year, will be handled on a district-by-district, case-by-case basis. Each district has a unique storage capacity,” he stated.

Some local water agencies are already imposing limitations. The Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, which encompasses five counties, has announced that it would restrict outdoor water use for homeowners and agricultural producers. The region was also taking the uncommon step of requesting homeowners to reduce their indoor water consumption by 10%.

The district’s CEO, Scott Paxman, said homeowners had been terrific at conserving water, but he predicted a “tough year.” Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall told FOX 13 News that city-owned facilities will decrease water consumption by 14 percent this year, but she did not see the need to impose any limits since people had been so effective at voluntary conservation. Nonetheless, the city has already implemented “Stage 2” drought restrictions.

The declaration of a state of emergency will free up resources for towns that may be severely harmed by a drought. But, primarily, the governor stated, it was intended to draw Utahns’ attention to the drought problem and encourage them to conserve.

The Utah Department of Natural Resources has said that outdoor irrigation is not appropriate at this time.

“If we don’t manage our water, you won’t be able to turn on your faucet, and the people of Utah are aware of this. We reside in the middle of a desert,” Governor Cox stated.

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