Herbert declares state of emergency due to drought

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert on Monday issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency due to drought. The declaration allows drought-affected communities, agricultural producers and others to officially begin the process that may provide access to state or federal resources.

The drought declaration was a recent recommendation of the Utah Drought Review and Reporting Committee, chaired by Mike Styler, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources. Additionally, six rural Utah counties – Box Elder, Carbon, Emery, Grand, San Juan and Wayne – have declared emergency drought disasters.

“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 in a statement announcing the executive order.

“Such difficult conditions are harming the quality of life and the livelihoods of many Utah families and agricultural producers. 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.”

Herbert also asks Utahns to use water wisely year round. Seasonal water conservation suggestions include:

  • Fixing any leaks.
  • Only running dishwashers or washing machines when they are full.
  • Turning off the water while brushing teeth.
  • Reducing showers by at least one minute.

“This declaration opens doors for the Utah families and industries most harmed by this drought,” Styler said in the statement. “Hopefully, it’s also an eye opener for the rest of us, and we’re encouraged to do our part.

“We can’t control precipitation, but we can find opportunities to decrease our water use all year long. If we all look for opportunities to conserve, we can keep a lot more water in our reservoirs, which will really help if we have another dry winter.”

All of Utah’s 29 counties are experiencing some level of drought.

Sixteen of Utah’s top 49 reservoirs are less than 20 percent full, while eight are less than 5 percent full, according to the statement. A full list of reservoir levels is available here.

Styler recommended the drought declaration to Herbert after the reactivated Utah Drought Review and Reporting Committee met last month. It was the first time the committee had been activated in about 10 years, and it was necessary because conditions had reached a threshold that triggers the state’s statutory responsibility to convene.

The committee is required to meet by state code and by Utah’s Drought Response, which requires the state to prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies or disasters, with the primary objectives to save lives and protect public health and property.

Drought conditions have developed to the degree that several areas throughout Utah are receiving severe impacts to various sectors of their economies.

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