Utah drought: Where are we now? Tips to help

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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) – With 100% in the moderate drought category and 90% of the state experiencing extreme drought, as of March 17, Gov. Spencer J. Cox issued an Executive Order declaring a state of emergency due to drought conditions. 

But what does that mean to Utahans and are there ways to help?

According to officials, this means Utah is at a stage where water is crucial for the environment, and it is essential to conserve as much as possible.

“We’ve been monitoring drought conditions carefully and had hoped to see significant improvement from winter storms,” shares Gov. Cox. “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.”

According to Brian Steed, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, Utah’s soil moisture is at its lowest levels since it began being monitored in 2006.

“Extremely dry soils mean that when we do receive precipitation, the ground will soak it up first and reduce the runoff that typically fills reservoirs, lakes, and streams,” Steed adds. “We urge people to consider ways they can save water and help be part of the solution. The state also offers water-saving and money-saving rebates to help with both indoor and outdoor conservation.”

When it comes to conservation, state leaders and law enforcement are asking communities to take extra steps to help fight against the battle.

Tips for dealing with Utah’s drought

  • Restrict your outside watering to 1 or 2 times per week.
  • Water outside only between 7 p.m. and 9 a.m.
  • Postpone new landscape projects until a wetter year.
  • Replace thirsty plants with low water use plants.
  • No outside burning, fireworks, or target practice. the fire danger is extremely high this year.
  • Sweep driveways and sidewalks rather than spray them.
  • Fix even the smallest of leaks as soon as possible.
  • Run full loads (dishwashers and washing machines)
  • Turn off the water while brushing teeth, shaving, soaping up, doing dishes, or rinsing vegetables
  • Reduce showers by at least one minute

Now running down the calendar, a couple of months later, where do Utah’s drought conditions stand now, as of May 7?

According to the United States Drought Monitor (USDM), a national map released every Thursday showing parts of the U.S. that are currently in drought, Utah still isn’t doing too well.

The most intense period of drought occurred the week of January 19, 2021, where D4 affected 69.99% of Utah land, and since then it’s only gone downhill.

Officials tell ABC4 Utah remains under extreme drought conditions and change since the emergency declaration has been little to none. Currently, about 57.21% of the Beehive State is experiencing exceptional drought, while 90.20% is experiencing extreme drought.

The last time conditions warranted a drought declaration was when former Gov. Gary Herbert issued an executive order on Oct. 15, 2018. At that time, 99% of the state was in a moderate drought, with over 76% of Utah experiencing at least severe drought conditions. 

Learn more about current drought conditions and impacts in Utah.

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