SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s official state of drought emergency is over, but that’s not because the drought is.
Governor Spencer Cox issued the emergency order in April as the state entered another year of drought. Under Utah law, these orders are only good for 30 days. But to extend it requires the Utah State Legislature to meet in a special session, which is time-consuming and expensive (a special session, for example, can cost between $30,000 and $50,000 ).
In response to questions from FOX 13 News about when the state of emergency order expired on Thursday, Governor Cox’s office confirmed it would not be seeking a new one. Instead, the focus will be on ongoing drought awareness and conservation.
“One of the great benefits of declaring drought is to raise awareness of drought conditions. Now that we all know the problem, it is more important to focus on solutions. These include conservation, efficient use water for agriculture, drought-tolerant landscaping as well as better water storage,” said Jennifer Napier Pearce, Senior Communications Advisor to the Governor.
Many mechanisms put in place by the decree remain in force and this would not affect ongoing operations. The governor’s office has been in contact with the legislature over whether or not to extend the drought emergency and both branches of government agree on the severity of the drought situation.
“We are currently experiencing one of the worst droughts in Utah history. Reshaping the way we access, use and preserve our water supplies is imperative. During the session, the Legislature provided nearly $500 million to meet Utah’s water conservation efforts. However, water conservation takes effort from everyone in the state. We must work together to do all we can to reduce water use and prevent wildfires. Utahans stepped up last year, and I’m confident we can do it again,” said Senate President J. Stuart Adams in a statement to FOX 13 News.
The legislature has criticized emergency orders in the past. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government at the time. Gary Herbert has issued numerous declarations of states of emergency. When the legislator refused to extend them in a clash over powers decrees and the pandemic, Governor Herbert retaliated by issuing a new one every 30 days. Last year, tLegislature passed legislation limiting the scope of these executive orders without legislative agreement.
On Thursday, much of south-central Utah entered the worst drought category ever – “exceptional drought.” The entire state is in some form of drought category, either “severe” or “extreme” drought.