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Utah's 'State Of Emergency' Drought Could Impact Utah Resources And Economy

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Governor Gary Herbert issued a drought executive order this week. Utah water officials say all of Utah’s 29 counties are experiencing some level of drought. The state of emergency impacts resources and the economy.

The governor’s executive order is the first state of emergency related to drought in Utah history according to Candice Hasenyager, the assistant director of planning at the Division of Natural Resources. She said officials are still looking at past records for possible drought executive orders but haven’t found any documentation.

After recent rainfall and cooler temperatures, why are there concerns about water now?

“There is concern going into the water year on what the levels will be next summer,” Hasenyager said.

This executive order now can help impacted rural areas receive federal funding to prepare for the limited resources expected next year, according to Hasenyager.

“They’re definitely affected by it in rural communities probably more so because it’s part of their livelihood,” Hasenyager said.

For example, Hasenyager said some farmers who normally harvest hay three times in one year are only harvesting once. That’s less feed for animals, forcing farmers to all sell their animals at once.

“Drought has a statewide economic effect,” Hasenyager said. “It’s not just rural Utah, it is a statewide economic effect that does trickle down.”

Water officials are working with people in cities and neighborhoods to conserve water now and even during the winter. You can fix leaky pipes, only run dishwashers or washing machines when they are full, turn off the water while brushing teeth, and reducing shower time.

Hasenyager said too often, people don’t take water issues seriously.

“We do have a concern on that from a water planning perspective,” Hasenyager said. “From a local perspective, it’s a difficult message to get across when every time they go to their tap it turns on.”

The worst drought conditions are in Box Elder, Carbon, Emery, Grand, San Juan and Wayne Counties.