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Gov. Cox is likely to declare another state of emergency due to Utah’s drought

The low water levels of Lake Powell are seen at Lone Rock Beach, March 21, 2022.
Lexi Peery
The low water levels of Lake Powell are seen at Lone Rock Beach, March 21, 2022.

After another dry winter, Gov. Spencer Cox said Monday he’ll likely issue a state of emergency due to drought conditions again this year. He issued one in March of 2021. Before that, the last time a state of emergency related to drought was imposed was in 2018.

Roughly 99% of the state is currently in severe drought or worse, and Utah’s total water storage is less than half of full capacity.

“We really needed a wet year this year in order to get out of the hole that we were in last year, and we're just not seeing that materialize,” said Brian Steed, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources. “As a result of that, we really do need to have conservation in mind because all of our reservoirs are so far down that I'm really worried about this year.”

Steed said Utahns should expect mandatory water restrictions this summer.

“If you see places like Weber Basin, you're seeing additional restrictions being contemplated and put in place,” Steed said. “I think that will be a lot of the state. Not everywhere is the same. Some areas have more water than others. But ultimately all of us need to conserve more.”

Cox said he’ll review the latest drought numbers over the next couple of days before making his decision.

“The only bright spot [of this drought] is the awareness that is happening in our state that we need to use our water wisely, and we certainly saw this over the past year,” Cox said. “We're grateful for the residents of Utah who stepped up in a very, very big way to conserve water and make a big difference.”

State lawmakers also passed several water conservation bills during this year’s legislative session.

All new state facilities in Utah will be required to have less than 20% grass lawns under a law legislators passed. It would also require the state to reduce outdoor water use. Existing state facilities would need to cut outdoor water use by 5% by 2023 and 25% by 2026. The legislation also encourages homeowners to make similar cuts and offers them rebates to replace lawns with drought-resistant landscaping.

Another new law requires secondary water supplies to have meters installed by 2030.

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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