‘Widespread impacts’: Utah’s drought worsens despite recent rainfall

Utah Drought
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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Despite recent thunderstorms and flooding, our historic drought continues getting even worse. The entire state of Utah is now under “extreme” or “exceptional” drought conditions as our lakes and reservoirs get lower and lower.

While flash floods ravage parts of the state, overall dry conditions and higher than average temperatures are drying up our water reserves.

“We are experiencing some exceptionally poor to some of the worst on record water supply conditions,” Deputy Director of the Utah Division of Water Resources Candice Hasenyager said Wednesday. “We are seeing widespread impacts to agriculture, recreation, wildlife, and the environment.”

Hasenyager compares the state’s reservoirs to our bank account of water, and the balance is dwindling. Reservoir capacity is down 1% in the last week and lower than it was at the end of the agricultural season last October.

“Statewide, the reservoirs are at 55% capacity right now,” Hasenyager told ABC4 News. “31 of our 42 largest reservoirs are below 55% capacity.”

Some are way below. Gunnison Reservoir has been completely dry for weeks and Echo Reservoir is down to 22% of capacity. 

Meanwhile, the Great Salt Lake is at its lowest level since they started keeping records in 1847, down 11 feet from its average and shrinking as shown in satellite photographs.

Jeff Manwaring conducts lake tours for Exclusive Excursions, navigating his pontoon boat out of a nearly abandoned marina that’s only a foot deep in some spots. 

“The lake is just getting so much smaller now and we have to tilt up our motor whenever we go out now,” he said. 

Manwaring tells guests on his tours that the Great Salt Lake is why Utah has the “Greatest Snow on Earth”.

“Storms come over, they get supercharged, get stuck in the mountains, and the salt helps create light, dry snowflakes,” he said. “And also the lake protects Salt Lake City from massive dust storms so without a lake, it’ll really affect our snow and create a lot of dust storms and put me out of business.”

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