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Governor Cox issues drought emergency order

Ben Lasseter
The Jordanelle is at 50% capacity, according to the Utah State Parks Office.

Governor Spencer Cox issued an emergency order to address Utah’s ongoing drought Thursday morning.

Thursday’s emergency declaration mirrors the drought order issued in 2021 and mobilizes the state’s Drought Response Committee.

Governor Cox said the order also opens up emergency funding for communities hardest hit by the drought.

“This emergency order will allow the state to use any and all state resources we need to cope with the drought," Cox said. "This is very similar to what we did last year. Last summer, I asked Utahns to pray for rain, which helped, but we’re certainly not relying solely on deity to solve our problems.” 

Cox said water-saving efforts employed last summer saved “billions” of gallons of water and called on Utahns to consider the same measures this year like reducing water waste in the home and on landscaping.

The order does not contain any state-wide restrictions on water use. Cox said those decisions will be up to individual water districts throughout Utah.

According to the Utah Division of Water Resources, over half of the state’s reservoirs are below 55% capacity, with some reservoirs in central and southern Utah well below 40% capacity.

Nearly the entire state is considered to be experiencing drought levels categorized as “severe,” with 44% of the state in the “extreme” drought category, according to federal data.

Utah gets 95% of its water from melting snow each year, but a winter that saw snow totals 25% below normal levels means significantly less water will be stored in the state’s reservoirs this spring.

Cox visited the Jordanelle reservoir earlier this week for a bill signing ceremony and touted the state legislature’s efforts to address the drought.

He said what he saw at the reservoir highlighted the seriousness of the drought situation

“The view was striking," said Cox. "Jordanelle is literally half empty, or half full depending on your level of optimism. The shoreline has receded so much that it’s a fair hike just to reach the water. Sadly, Jordanelle is one of our reservoirs that is more full than others.”

Local water districts have already announced water saving efforts. The Weber Basin Water Conservancy District announced significant water cutbacks to outdoor, indoor, and agricultural water use earlier this month.

The Summit Water Distribution Company also has a mandatory irrigation schedule in place and the Mountain Regional Water District has said outdoor watering restrictions are likely this summer.