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Pray for rain: Utah Gov. Cox says ‘divine intervention’ is needed amid dire drought

The waters of the Great Salt Lake barely reach the marina on Antelope Island.
The waters of the Great Salt Lake barely reach the marina on Antelope Island on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. As an unprecedented drought continues to grip the West, Gov. Spencer Cox issued a heartfelt call to Utahns on Thursday, asking them to pray for rain.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

As an unprecedented drought continues to grip the West, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox issued a heartfelt call to Utahns on Thursday, asking them to pray for rain.

“We need more rain, and we need it now,” Cox said in a video posted on Twitter. “We need some divine intervention.”

Cox asked “Utahns of all faiths to join me in a weekend of prayer,” from Friday to Sunday.

“By praying collaboratively and collectively, asking God or whatever higher power you believe in, for more rain, we may be able to escape the deadliest aspects of the continuing drought,” the governor said. “Please join me and Utahns, regardless of religious affiliation, in a weekend of humble prayer for rain.”

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service in Utah issued a warning that “excessive heat” is expected across the state Thursday and Friday.

Cox this year has already issued two executive orders declaring a statewide drought emergency in Utah. Last month, Cox banned state agencies from watering during the hottest times of the day — between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. — and encouraged other water providers to do the same.

Cox has also urged Utahns to conserve water, reminding them they live in a state that is among the driest in the nation.

“Let me just state unequivocally, guys, it’s really bad,” Cox said in his monthly news conference on PBS Utah last month. “It’s really bad. It’s as bad as it’s been. We need everyone in the state to understand right now that we’re heading into one of the worst droughts and potentially one of the worst fire seasons that we’ve seen. And we’ve seen some bad ones.”

The drought is currently affecting 36.5% of the U.S. and impacting over 143 million people, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.

As of May, reservoir storage was already down 15% from where it was last year, and multiple southern Utah watersheds are sitting at just 20% of normal snowpack.

“While we’ve had a few welcome rainstorms this spring, it’s simply not enough to fill our reservoirs or offset the low levels of moisture in our soils,” Cox said. “The extremely dry conditions this year bring the potential for deadly fires, and the lack of water threatens our crops, our livestock and wildlife, our food supply chains and really, our way of life.”

Across the West, Utah and other Colorado River Basin states have pinned their hopes on an active monsoon season this summer to tamp temperatures and provide much-needed moisture. Last year’s monsoon season never effectively materialized.

The Utah Division of Water Resources has a website, slowtheflow.org, that advises people on when it is appropriate to irrigate and also provides information on how homeowners can reduce their water usage.

“I’ve already asked all Utahns to conserve water by avoiding long showers, fixing leaky faucets and planting water-wise landscapes,” Cox said. “But I fear those efforts alone won’t be enough to protect us.”