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Utah's drought is less severe than last year, but it isn't over yet

Dry, cracked mud
Arbyreed
/
Flickr
Drought continues in Utah and the West

Laura Haskell, Utah’s State Drought Coordinator, said Utah has seen drought conditions in eight of the last ten years.

“And last year, because of how intense it was, we really used our reservoir storage. And we didn't get good spring runoff last year, either. So our reservoirs started this year, really low from leftover from last year,” Haskell said.

Reservoirs will not be replenished until the next spring runoff, so Haskell said we need to be careful with our water usage.

“It takes about as long to get out of drought as it took to get into drought. And we have been in drought for several years. So it's gonna take a few years to get out of this,” Haskell said.

While drought may be most apparent in the hot, dry summer months, prolonged drought can have lasting effects on the natural ecosystem.

“If trees, for example, are drought-stressed, then they're more susceptible to disease and pests. And, like in 2018, we had some drought, and we had a deer fawn die off where … a lot of young deer died. And it's going to take years for that to recover,” Haskell said.

Although precipitation is key to relieving drought, Haskell said the timing and amount matter.

“We had some good spring rain this year, which kind of keeps the grasses and things wet, but then they grow more. So when they do dry out, … it's worse for the biofuels. So there's a really fine line there, of precipitation and vegetation growth,” Haskell said.

Long, dry grasses can catch alight from a spark and lead to devastating wildfires, so fire safety is key this summer as the drought across Utah and the west continues.

Caroline Long is a science reporter at UPR. She is curious about the natural world and passionate about communicating her findings with others. As a PhD student in Biology at Utah State University, she spends most of her time in the lab or at the coyote facility, studying social behavior. In her free time, she enjoys making art, listening to music, and hiking.