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The dreary drought drags on. Here’s how Utah residents want to respond

New Utah poll results show strong support for incentive programs to save water

SHARE The dreary drought drags on. Here’s how Utah residents want to respond
Dried lake bed is pictured in Farmington Bay, looking at Antelope Island.

Dried lake bed is pictured in Farmington Bay, looking at Antelope Island, as the Great Salt Lake experiences record low water levels on Friday, July 22, 2022.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Utah’s drought is feeling like an endless hammer, pounding residents with relentless heat, arid conditions and no foreseeable end in sight.

In plain terms, drought is a downer.

It is interfering with water supplies, recreational opportunities and farmers’ livelihoods — and it is asking us to consider hard questions about population growth, water scarcity and how generations will fare going forward.

A new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics Poll shows Utah residents are willing to step up in this urgent crisis, with 50% who say providing water-wise incentives is the best move in this increasingly arid climate.


Another 20% say more restrictions or penalties are in order for those who violate watering rules for purely cosmetic reasons, and 14% say higher rates should be imposed for those who exceed their monthly water budget.

Interestingly, 5% of those surveyed in the poll that tapped 801 residents July 13-18 said Utah does not need to save water and another 11% simply do not know the answer. The poll has a margin of error rate of plus or minus 3.46 percentage points.

Drought in numbers

The latest update from the Utah Division of Water Resources does not paint an optimistic picture when it comes to Utah’s ongoing drought situation.

It highlights these points:

  • On July 3, the level of Great Salt Lake dropped below the October 2021 historic low elevation. This average daily surface elevation, 4190.1, was measured at USGS station 10010000, located on the southern end of the lake and is associated with a data record dating back to 1847.
  • Last week, the state saw increased wildfire risk due to dry and windy conditions. These conditions resulted in five major fires that burned over the weekend. To date, those fires have burned almost 17,000 acres of land, and three of them are still active this week. 
  • The Division of Drinking Water is working with the town of Stockton to assess and address damage caused by the Jacob City Fire to the community’s drinking water treatment plant. The town is currently using an emergency well for drinking water until facility repairs or upgrades are completed. 

In addition, the division noted that 18 of Utah’s largest 45 reservoirs are below 55% of available capacity. Overall statewide storage is 57% of capacity and 83% of the state is experiencing extreme or exceptional drought conditions.

Water districts throughout the state are offering rebates for conservation savings, encouraging residents to pull out turf in favor of less consumptive use.

 Correction: A graphic in a previous version incorrectly stated the poll was conducted in June. It was conducted in July.