Utah Gov. Spencer Cox issued a second executive order this week declaring a state of emergency as Utah continues to face severe drought conditions.

Cox issued the first executive order on March 17 at the recommendation of the Drought Review and Reporting Committee. The declaration allowed “drought-affected communities, agricultural producers and others to officially begin the process that may provide access to state or federal emergency resources,” according to the governor’s office.

“We’ve been monitoring drought conditions carefully and had hoped to see significant improvement from winter storms,” Cox said in March. “Unfortunately, we have not received enough snow to offset the dry conditions. I ask Utahns to evaluate their water use and find ways to save not only because of current drought conditions but also because we live in one of the driest states in the nation.”

The governor’s second executive order, issued on Thursday, continues the state’s Emergency Operations Plan and Drought Response Plan, which were activated through the first order.

According to data from the U.S. Drought Monitor, 100% of the state of Utah was classified as experiencing “moderate” drought as of Tuesday, while about 90% of the state was said to be experiencing “extreme” drought. About 58% of the state, primarily central and southwestern Utah, was experiencing “exceptional” drought.

The Utah Department of Natural Resources states that a drought is generally “a result of a deficiency of precipitation over an extended period of time, resulting in a water shortage, which impacts normal water usage.”

“With less water expected to enter our lakes and reservoirs, we are asking people to be aware of their water use,” the agency wrote on a webpage about droughts, noting that a single lawn-water for the average quarter-acre lot in Utah uses 3,000 gallons of water.

The drought and subsequent executive orders come after Utah experienced its third driest spring on record in 2020 and one of its busiest wildfire seasons.

The governor asked Utahns to “use water wisely year-round,” including by fixing leaks, running full dishwasher and washing machine loads, reducing showering time by at least one minute and implementing smart irrigation controllers.

For more information about droughts in Utah and how they can be managed, visit http://water.utah.gov/water-data/drought.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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