IN FOCUS Discussion: Utah’s extreme drought

In Focus

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The state of Utah saw its worst drought year on record in 2020, according to experts with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City. The drought worsened during the state’s typical wet season during the last three months of the year, and the period between July and December was the fourth warmest on record.

This year is not projected to get any better. The entire state is in some level of drought, and officials say it will impact much more than just our wildfire season. We’re going to see the impacts on our crops, water availability, wildlife, and outdoor recreation.

On Thursday, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall declared a stage two water shortage contingency response for the city and its water customers, triggered by dramatically low mountain snow melt and stream flows. Experts say that 95% of the state’s water supply and storage comes from our snow melt. The creeks that supply a portion of the water for more than 360,000 water customers in SLC are ranging from only 22% to 52% on average this year.

Glen Merrill, hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City, joined ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen on the CW30 News at 7 p.m. for an IN FOCUS discussion. He talked about what the latest drought numbers show, when they realized the state was going to experience exceptional drought, the factors they look at to make those determinations, and the trends of our changing climate.

Craig Buttars, commissioner of Utah’s Department of Agriculture and Food, discussed how his agency is looking at this year’s drought, the concerns and plans of farmers and growers, which agricultural products grown in Utah will be impacted the most, the Water Optimization Program that they sponsor, and the other services they provide to their clients.

Faith Jolley with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources addressed the impacts of the drought on Utah’s wildlife, how it will affect this year’s hunting and permits, whether they expect a lower population of fish and how they plan to manage the numbers, the impact of the increase in ticks, and what people can do to help wildlife during the drought.

To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Merrill, Buttars, and Jolley, click on the video at the top of the article.

Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.

Rosie Nguyen is an award-winning journalist who joined the ABC4 News team as a reporter in January 2018. In September 2020, she embarked on a new journey as the anchor for the CW30 News at 7 p.m. Although she’s not out in the field anymore, she is continuing her passion for social justice and community issues through the nightly “In Focus” discussions.

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