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drought

Earlier this year, Arizona -- one of seven southwestern states that rely on the Colorado River -- was in the midst of a heated discussion about water.

“It’s time to protect Lake Mead and Arizona,” the state’s Republican governor, Doug Ducey, said in his state of the state address in January 2019. He spoke to lawmakers in the midst of uncomfortable, emotional discussions at the statehouse in Phoenix about who gets access to water in the arid West, and who doesn’t. 

Judy Fahys / KUER

February’s wet weather has helped ease drought’s grip on Utah, as heavier than normal rain and snow have resulted in a statewide snowpack that’s at normal or better.

Photo of a snow-covered lake.
Gary Henrie / U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Utah’s water picture looks bright so far this year — a big snowpack is just one reason why — and forecasters say the stormy trend is likely to continue.

On stage in a conference room at Las Vegas's Caesars Palace, Keith Moses said coming to terms with the limits of the Colorado River is like losing a loved one.

"It reminds me of the seven stages of grief," Moses said. "Because I think we've been in denial for a long time."

Moses is vice chairman of the Colorado River Indian Tribes, a group of four tribes near Parker, Arizona. He was speaking at the annual Colorado River Water Users Association meeting.

Photo of snowy mountain scene
Casey Sutcliffe/USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Sporadic storms since Thanksgiving have resulted in precipitation levels throughout Utah that are, in general, above normal for the beginning of the year. It’s a welcome trend following the state’s driest year on record.

Photo of low reservoir.
iStock.com / tupungato

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert declared a state-wide drought emergency this week. It’s one of two states in our region that were especially hard-hit this year.

In 2007, years into a record-breaking drought throughout the southwestern U.S., officials along the Colorado River finally came to an agreement on how they’d deal with future water shortages -- and then quietly hoped that wet weather would return.

But it didn’t.

photo of storm
Brendan Waterman/Natural Resources Conservation Service

A series of water conservation open houses winds down next week on the heels of national weather data showing that Utah just ended its driest year recorded history.

Photo of committee.
Judy Fahys / KUER

Severe drought has wreaked havoc on agriculture and wildlife in Utah, but the state's Drought Review and Reporting Committee decided against taking action — at least for now — as officials looked toward what they hope is a wet and stormy fall and winter.

Red dirt farm and tractor.
iStock.com / johnnya123

Reports of strong rain have come in from all over Utah in recent weeks, but those storms haven't eased the hardships caused by a statewide drought.

Hay prices are spiking this year, driven up by a drought-induced shortage of the crop. It’s affecting ranchers across the board, but horse owners in particular are feeling the pinch. Horses eat higher quality hay, so it’s harder to get. It’s forcing horse owners in Colorado to buy more hay from neighboring states like Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana and that’s driving the cost up even more.  


Between growing populations and changing climate conditions, our water sources are only expected to get more crunched. Communities in some very dry states have had to get creative about where to get their water, sometimes purifying sewage into drinking water. More western cities are beginning to get on board, too. But there’s a problem: the ick factor.

Jose Alvarez, a supervisor at R. H. Dupper Landscaping, stood up from changing a sprinkler nozzle on a large grassy field at a homeowner’s association in Chandler, Arizona. He surveyed the turf, a patchwork of green and brown.

Throughout the Western U.S., water conservation is in the toilet.

And that’s a good thing.

Cory Maylett/Wikimedia Commons

Drought has settled Sanpete County, and last week conditions in central Utah reached the worst official category possible: "exceptional drought."

U.S. Drought Monitor

Drought has spread across the state, but conditions in southeastern Utah are dire and deepening.

U.S. Drought Monitor

Drought has basically divided the Mountain West into two separate regions this year.

Storms kept Idaho, Montana and Wyoming wet over the winter, and the national Drought Monitor shows no drought in those states.

Judy Fahys / KUER News

Last year was the warmest on record globally. And, while Salt Lake City had a hot one too, it wasn’t a record breaker.

Judy Fahys/KUER

Red Butte Creek is flowing but not gushing the way it normally would be in mid-spring.

Judy Fahys/KUER

The water year begins on October 1st, and the water community is hoping a string of dry years is finally coming to an end.

Ryan Luke, an engineer with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Provo Area office, says a few reservoirs are at close to normal levels but most are low for this time of year.

Judy Fahys

Utah water watchers are reminding Wasatch Front residents that October 1st is the time of year to stop watering lawns and gardens.

Judy Fahys/KUER

Fall colors in Utah’s mountains are getting people thinking about prospects for a snowy winter. Weather forecasters also have been thinking about it, especially the role the strong El Nino might play and how “the Blob” could factor in.

Judy Fahys/KUER

California’s been excited about news that El Nino weather might bring some drought relief this fall and winter. But Utahns shouldn’t get their hopes up about getting the same cooler, rainier climate California expects.

Hot Weather Digs In

Jun 22, 2015
Judy Fahys/KUER

It’s been pretty hot in Utah lately, and the forecast for the week heading into the July Fourth holiday weekend calls for the warm and dry conditions to dig in.

Bob Nelson

Within the next couple of weeks, University of Utah landscape planners and maintenance crews will have converted 30,000 square feet of lawn to more drought-tolerant green space on campus.

Judy Fahys/KUER

The weather forecast includes a decent chance of rain through the holiday weekend. It’s going to spoil plenty of outdoor activities, but some Utahns are grateful for the relief it’s brought, at least for the time being.

Grantsville farmer Ernest Matthews is one. He welcomes this rainy May for what its done for the range his cows graze and the alfalfa he grows.

Lynn Kitchen / NCRS

Utah’s warm, dry winter means a measly snowmelt, and water-watchers are already writing off this water year as one of the state’s driest ever even though it’s just halfway over.

Most years, the dogs splashing in Parley’s Creek would find the water here cold and swift with spring snowmelt. But the stream’s running at about one-third of normal for this time of year, and that’s as good as it’s going to get. Forecasters say there’s no more runoff to look forward to.

Ken Lund / Flickr Creative Commons

  The Colorado River is often called the lifeblood of the West, and now a new study shows just how economically vital the river is to the seven states that rely on it.

Judy Fahys/KUER

More than a dozen water managers met at the National Weather Service office in Salt Lake City Tuesday to hear from forecasters, and many left cautiously optimistic about 2015 even though the past three years have been drier than normal in Utah.

Arby Reed / Flickr Creative Commons

A new snapshot of the nation’s water use shows a downward trend.

But Utah is using more water, according to the

U.S. Geological Survey’s five-year study,  based on 2010 data,  shows the nation’s homes, farms, industry and power plants are using significantly less water than they have in more than four decades.

Utah bucked that trend, using 7 percent more water than in 2005.

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