Gov. Cox issues state of emergency for drought conditions

Apr 21, 2022, 12:22 PM | Updated: Jun 20, 2022, 1:43 pm
Very low water levels at Jordanelle Reservoir in Wasatch County are seen after Gov. Spencer Cox a...
Very low water levels at Jordanelle Reservoir in Wasatch County are seen after Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson ceremonially signed key water legislation on Monday, April 18, 2022. (Scott G. Winterton/Deseret News)
(Scott G. Winterton/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Spencer Cox has issued a state of emergency as dire drought conditions continue to impact the state.

“We’ve had a very volatile water year, and unfortunately, recent spring storms are not enough to make up the shortage in our snowpack,” Cox said. “Once again, I call on all Utahns – households, farmers, businesses, governments and other groups – to carefully consider their needs and reduce their water use. We saved billions of gallons last year and we can do it again.”

According to the governor’s office, the declaration activates Utah’s Drought Response Committee and triggers increased monitoring and reporting. It also allows drought-affected communities, agricultural producers and others to report unmet needs and work toward solutions.

The Utah Division of Natural Resources says 99.39% of the state is in severe drought or worse, with 43.46% of Utah in extreme drought.

Drought details

  • Statewide snow water equivalent (SWE), or how much water would be in the snowpack if it melted, peaked at 12 inches. This is 75% of the typical median peak of 16 inches for our water year.
  • Nineteen of Utah’s largest 45 reservoirs are below 55% of available capacity. Overall statewide storage is 59% of capacity. This time last year, reservoirs were about 67% of capacity.
  • Soil moisture is 4% higher compared to normal for this time of year. Wet soils are critical for effective spring runoff.
  • Of the 94 measured streams, 59 are flowing below normal despite spring runoff. Two streams are flowing at record low conditions.

Salt Lake City recently announced it would begin stage two of its five-stage Water Shortage Contingency Plan, asking the public to cut back water use by 5% a day and requiring public golf courses, parks, and city-owned buildings to reduce overall water use.

New runoff forecasts for the Great Salt Lake and other lakes in Utah are well below normal.

Heavy snowfall in December led to above-average predictions on Jan. 1, but the forecasts have dropped each month with abnormally dry weather between January and March.

Both the Great Salt Lake and Utah Lake are projected at about 60% of normal runoff, and Bear Lake was projected as low as 50% runoff.


Aerial imagery reveals the grim reality of ongoing drought in Utah

Cox held a ceremonial signing of several bills that deal with Utah’s water at Jordanelle Reservoir:

  • HB168: Preferences Of Water Rights Amendments
  • HB282: Water Wise Landscaping Amendments
  • SB110: Water As Part Of General Plan
  • HB305: Natural Resources Revisions
  • HB33: Instream Water Flow Amendments
  • HB121: Water Conservation Modifications
  • HB242: Secondary Water Metering Amendments
  • HB410: Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement
  • HB429: Great Salt Lake Amendments
  • HB157: Sovereign Lands Revenue Amendments
  • HB232: Utah Lake Authority

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Gov. Cox issues state of emergency for drought conditions