Gov. Spencer Cox issues state of emergency due to Utah’s historic drought

Snowpack is 25% below normal levels for this time of year, Cox said.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Great Salt Lake near the Spiral Jetty last month. On Thursday, April 21, 2022, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox declared a state of emergency because of the drought.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox declared a state of emergency on Thursday as the state faces a historic drought and low snowpack.

“This emergency order will allow the state to use any and all state resources we need to cope with the drought,” Cox said during his monthly televised news conference on PBS Utah. “Last summer, I asked Utahns to pray for rain, which helped, but we’re certainly not relying solely on deity to solve our problems.”

This is the second time Cox has issued a statewide drought emergency in the last year as Western states deal with the worst 20-year drought in 1,200 years. The Beehive State has been in a drought in 8 of the last 10 years, according to Cox.

Cox said the emergency declaration will allow Utah officials to access state resources and emergency funds to cope with the drought if necessary.

Nearly the whole state is in a drought level considered “severe or worse,” while around 43% of the state is in an “extreme” drought.

Cox added that Utah’s snowpack is 25% below normal levels for this time of year, while statewide reservoir storage currently sits at 59%, according to the Utah Department of Natural Resources. Almost half of the state’s largest reservoirs are below 55% capacity, down from the 67% capacity level they were at last year, data provided by DNR show.

“Obviously, reservoir storage is what gets us through the dry years and is dependent on snowpack and runoff. But extended drought and last year’s hot dry conditions have really drained our reservoirs,” he said. “There’s no doubt that we are going to have a difficult year ahead.”

As the summer months approach, Cox advised Utahns to limit their water usage.

“We’re asking farmers, businesses, we’re asking citizens, institutions across the state to want to do their part to conserve and reduce water usage,” he said.

This year, Cox signed a bill that would allot $40 million towards efforts to save the shrinking Great Salt Lake. Earlier this month, Salt Lake City Mayor Mendenhall asked residents to reduce their water usage by 5%.

To save water, Slow the Flow. Save H20, an educational campaign funded by the Governor’s Water Conservation Team, recommends:

- Reusing cooking water to water plants

- Using your dishwasher or washing machine once it’s full of dishes or clothes

- Fixing leaky faucets

- Reducing your shower time by a minute

- Not overwatering plants or lawns