MAP: Utah drought map shows majority of the state under ‘extreme drought’

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FILE – In this July 16, 2014 file photo, what was once a marina sits high and dry due to Lake Mead receding in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Arizona. Extreme swings in weather are expected as part of a changing climate, something Brad Udall, a water and climate research scientist at Colorado State University, has called “weather whiplash.” The drought-stricken Southwest got a reprieve this year with average and above-average snowfall following a year that sent many states into extreme drought. Nearly empty reservoirs quickly rose, including Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the largest man-made reservoirs in the country that hold back Colorado River water. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

UTAH (ABC4) – Drought conditions in Utah are not a new concern. This year, water officials statewide say things are bad, but exactly how bad are they?

According to the Utah Division of Water Resources, as of April 14, nearly 100% of the state is in a drought and over 90% is in extreme drought. 

“The snowpack peaked 10 days early at 81% of average. Peaking early means the runoff won’t be as effective, with less water making it to fill rivers and streams. And with soil moisture the lowest we’ve seen since monitoring began in 2006, we have very low streamflow runoff projections,” Laura Haskell, Drought Coordinator with the Utah Division of Water Resources, tells ABC4. 

With less water expected to enter our lakes and reservoirs, the Utah Division of Water Resources is asking people to be aware of their water use.

“Turn off water when not actively in use, run full loads in the dishwasher and washing machine, and most importantly, wait to water. A single lawn watering for the average quarter-acre lot in Utah uses 3,000 gallons of water. If we all shift our water habits and use less, we can make the water we have last longer,” Haskell shares. 

See graph below:

Courtesy: Utah Division of Water Resources

According to the Utah Division of Water Resources, the chart below reflects historic U.S. Drought Monitor Map categories for Utah since 2000. **Notice the percent of the state in the D4 (dark red) category is much larger than in previous years. 

Courtesy: Utah Division of Water Resources

Haskell tells ABC4 the many “Wait to Water” messages are really important right now.  

According to Haskell, many secondary water systems (untreated water used for outdoor watering) are charged on April 15 when they start to fill canals, but just because the water is available doesn’t mean you need to use it. 

“Wait to water until temps are in the mid-70s for several consecutive days. It’s ok for grass to look a little brown right now. It’s been dormant all winter and will rebound,” Haskell adds.

The below information is from the United States Drought Monitor on Utah’s current drought conditions:

According to the Utah Division of Water Resources, “76% of the west is in drought. Just over 40% is extreme drought or worse.”

Below is the United States Drought Monitor map for the United States:

Courtesy: Unites States Drought Monitor

Adam Carroll, Meteorologist for ABC4 News says much of the state is “very dry with little to no precipitation.” 

“With 90% of Utah remaining in an extreme drought, we have seen a very early start to the fire season with whipping winds nearly constantly over Southern and Eastern Utah. April is historically the wettest month in Salt Lake City, but even if we end the month above average, this wouldn’t put a dent in the drought.” 

With 100% of the state experiencing moderate drought and 90% of the state experiencing extreme drought, Utah Governor Spencer Cox issued an executive order declaring a local state of emergency in Utah in early March. 

“We’ve been monitoring drought conditions carefully and had hoped to see significant improvement from winter storms,” Gov. Cox shares. “Unfortunately, we have not received enough snow to offset the dry conditions. I ask Utahns to evaluate their water use and find ways to save not only because of current drought conditions but also because we live in one of the driest states in the nation,” Gov. Cox said in a statement to ABC4.

Wildfire season in Utah is right around the corner. Will Utah’s current drought conditions make things worse?

Utah’s wildfire officials say the state’s low moisture, dry soil, and extreme drought conditions are not ideal for the upcoming 2021 wildfire season. 

Fire officials say fire crews statewide are worrying about an increased likelihood of a fire starting on the dry land and the potential intensity of how it burns. 

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