U.S. Drought Monitor map for 18 October 2018. Graphic: Eric Luebehusen / U.S. Department of Agriculture

By Pam Wright
17 October 2018

(The Weather Channel) – An extreme drought that depleted half of Utah's reservoirs has prompted Gov. Gary Herbert to declare a state of emergency.

The declaration allows drought-affected communities, agricultural producers and others to begin the process of accessing state or federal resources, according to a press release.

“The rainfall we have received helps, but the drought is at a level unseen for many years and will not be solved with a small series of storms. In some areas, the drought is at, or near, historic levels,” Herbert said.

The declaration comes on the heels of the state's driest year on record, according to NOAA. The U.S. Drought Monitor noted that every county in the Beehive State is experiencing some level of drought conditions.

Snowpack was at a record low last winter, and water levels at 16 of the 49 major Utah reservoirs are currently below 20 percent, according to the governor's release. Eight of those are below 5 percent, the report added.

Mike Styler, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources and chairman of the state's Drought Review and Reporting Committee, says the declaration "opens doors for the Utah families and industries most harmed by this drought."

The extended drought has hit tourism. Lake Powell, a popular recreational site, is only half full and Gunnison and Piute reservoirs are nearly empty.

The drought has even forced ranchers to sell livestock because of a loss of winter and summer pastures.

“Such difficult conditions are harming the quality of life and the livelihoods of many Utah families and agricultural producers," said Herbert. "The ramifications of drought extend beyond our depleted water supply. Drought harms our industries, agriculture, recreation, and wildlife, and it worsens wildfire conditions and air quality." [more]

Utah's Extreme Drought Prompts a State of Emergency



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