An extreme drought that depleted half of Utah's reservoirs has prompted Gov. Gary Herbert to declare a state of emergency, according to a weather.com article. The declaration means drought-affected communities, agricultural producers and others can begin the process of accessing state or federal resources, according to a press release.
The declaration comes on the heels of the state's driest year on record, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. All counties in the Beehive State are reportedly experiencing some level of drought conditions.
Snowpack was at a record low last winter, and water levels at 16 of the 49 major Utah reservoirs are currently below 20 percent, according to the governor's release. Eight of those are below 5 percent, the report added.
The extended drought has hit tourism. Lake Powell, a popular recreational site, is only half full and Gunnison and Piute reservoirs are nearly empty. The drought has even forced ranchers to sell livestock because of a loss of winter and summer pastures.
“Such difficult conditions are harming the quality of life and the livelihoods of many Utah families and agricultural producers," Herbert says. "The ramifications of drought extend beyond our depleted water supply. Drought harms our industries, agriculture, recreation and wildlife, and it worsens wildfire conditions and air quality."
Officials have called on residents to conserve water. Herbert suggested residents fix leaks, only run dishwashers or washing machines when they are full, turn off the water while brushing teeth and reduce showers by at least one minute.