Utah Governor Calls For Reduced Water Usage Amid Drought

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox urged residents and businesses to cut down on their water usage Tuesday to combat the worst drought the state has experienced in decades.

Cox, a Republican, said he will issue an executive order directing state agencies in northern Utah to only water outdoors twice a week and state agencies in southern Utah to water three times a week. The state's Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands has also issued a fireworks bans for all state lands and unincorporated private lands to reduce the risk of wildfires, he said.

The governor said the entire state is experiencing a drought, and about 90% of Utah is now in an extreme drought category.

“We’re slowing down on our press conferences about the pandemic, and we’re headed right into another disaster,” Cox told reporters on the steps of the Utah Capitol. ” It’s been that kind of year for the state of Utah.”

Cox said outdoor watering accounts for 60% of residential water use in Utah and called on residents to allow lawns to go brown. He noted that some local water districts are enforcing their own restrictions.

In Syracuse, Utah, residents aren't allowed to water their lawns during the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m, Fox 13 reported. Violators will get an initial warning. A second violation will lead to a $100 fine, a third will result in a $250 fine and a fourth violation will shut off the home's secondary water for the year.

Cox also renewed his calls for residents of faith to pray for rain. He released a statement last week calling on Utah residents to pray for “divine intervention" to combat the drought.

The governor has issued two drought-related emergency orders in the last three months. He declared a state of emergency on March 17 due to the ongoing drought and issued another executive order on May 3 requiring water conservation practices at state facilities.

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Eppolito is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.