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Utah County Commission declares state of emergency over drought

By Connor Richards daily Herald - | Jun 8, 2021
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Wheat grows beside Mountain View Road as traffic flows along the road in northwestern Saratoga Springs on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. The western half of Utah County, including Eagle Mountain, Saratoga Springs, Cedar Fort and Fairfield, is listed as having “severe drought” intensity.

Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

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Homes stand and vehicles drive along roads in northwestern Lehi on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

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Wheat grows beside Mountain View Road in northwestern Saratoga Springs on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

The Utah County Commission has declared a state of emergency in Utah County in response to the ongoing drought facing the state.

Over 90% of Utah is currently experiencing “extreme” drought conditions, according to data from the U.S. Drought Monitor that was last updated on Thursday, while the entire state is experiencing “moderate” drought conditions.

The east half of Utah County is experiencing extreme drought conditions while the west half is experiencing “exceptional” drought conditions.

On Wednesday, the Utah County Commission approved and authorized an emergency drought declaration put forward by Commissioner Bill Lee.

“As the Chair of the Commission, I have the ability to unilaterally declare states of emergency, but declarations by just the Chair are short-lived,” Lee said in a written statement. “Because of the projected duration and severity of the drought, we need a declaration that will last through the end of the year.”

The commission chair said that the declaration “will allow us to continue educating the public about the drought and the effects that come with it, particularly in regards to water usage and preventing fires.”

“I urge all Utah County residents to do their part to conserve water and help protect the health and safety of our residents by exercising common sense in preventing costly wildfires during these potentially dangerous times,” he said.

The state of emergency declaration comes the same month that Lehi officials implemented restrictions on water use that limit lawn watering up to three days per week with at least 48 hours between the start of watering cycles. A second violation results in a $100 fine from the city and a third violation results in a $500 fine.

Other Utah County cities, including Spanish Fork, have discussed the possibility of implementing restrictions on water use.

In his statement, Lee said that “multiple mayors throughout Utah County” had asked for an emergency declaration for the county, adding that he was “eager to stand with them in helping our communities to mitigate the negative consequences of the drought.”

The Utah County Commission passed the emergency declaration on Wednesday without any discussion.

Gov. Spencer Cox has issued two executive orders so far this year addressing Utah’s drought, including an executive order in March allowing “drought-affected communities, agricultural producers and others to officially begin the process that may provide access to state or federal emergency resources.”

On Thursday, Cox invited Utahns to join him in praying for rain to relieve the state from the drought.

For more information about Utah’s drought conditions and ways to conserve water, visit http://water.utah.gov/water-data/drought.

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