UTAH (ABC4) – As the summer season is almost upon us, triple-digit heat and dry air continue to plague Utah’s ongoing drought.
The Utah Division of Water Resources says currently, the majority of the state is experiencing unprecedented drought. Currently, 99.8% of Utah experiencing “severe” or “extreme” drought conditions and 5.71% of Utah is in the “exceptional” category which is the worst category in the drought index.
“Now that portions of the state have moved into ‘exceptional drought,’ water conservation becomes even more critical,” said Brian Steed, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources. “Residents looking to stretch our water supply can find rebates and conservation tips at SlowtheFlow.org”
Experts say this year will be the 19th driest spring on record in approximately 125 years of data.
The severe drought conditions continue to make wildfire threats a serious danger this summer. Snowpack is 25% below-average. Officials say so far, there have been 183 wildfires in Utah, with 152 of them being human-caused.
Due to these continued threats, many Utah state parks are currently under fire restrictions. The restrictions limit where campfires can be created along with the types of fire or appliances permitted for use. Current fire restrictions can be found here.
Utah farmers will experience scarce crop yields and feed availability. Officials say farmers and ranchers will have to cut back on available water and the number of crops/acres that they’re able to plant.
Extreme drought will also impact fish due to low water levels in lakes, reservoirs and streams throughout Utah. Currently, 13 of Utah’s largest 45 reservoirs are below 55% of available capacity. Overall statewide storage is 63% of capacity.
The Great Salt Lake continues to be threatened, especially as the lake drops a little over two feet every summer. Experts say with a current elevation of 4190.8, this would mean the lake could hit a new historic low.
Of the 99 measured streams, 61 streams are flowing below normal despite spring runoff. Four streams are flowing at record low conditions. Experts say, due to low snowpack and moisture, streamflows will be even lower than usual which means reservoirs won’t be filled.
“Fish can also die when temperatures are too warm or the oxygen levels get too low,” officials say. “Trout in low-elevation waterbodies have the greatest likelihood of being impacted by the drought this year, but low water levels and high water temperatures can affect all fish species.”
Officials say harmful algal bloom (HAB) monitoring conducted by Zion National Park has detected the presence of HABs in the Virgin River Watershed.
“The North Fork of the Virgin River including “the Narrows,” and North Creek are under Warning Advisory, and La Verkin Creek is under a Health Watch,” officials say. “Primary contact recreation (swimming and submerging the head), should be avoided, pets should be kept away and water should not be ingested
anywhere in the park.”
Boaters should also keep in mind that many Utah state parks are experiencing extreme lows in water levels. Water volume may be so low by July this year that some boat ramps may not be functional at all.
“When reservoirs reach these levels, some parks are forced to close their boat launch ramps in order to help better protect visitors and their property,” officials say. “Several boat ramps at state parks across Utah are
already closed or under advisory.” The most recent boating restrictions can be found here.
To see the most current drought report for Utah this summer, click here.