Utah’s valleys and mountains dried out significantly in July, deepening drought conditions to cover 99% of the state, according to monthly climate data.
Soil moisture saturation registered at 33% in the Aug. 1 Utah Climate and Water report, compared to 41% the previous year.
“That’s a little frightening,” Jordan Clayton of the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service said Wednesday. “That’s a fairly major concern for fire hazard as well.”
Mountain precipitation was just 40% of average in July, leaving the water year to date at 83% of average.
It was no better in the valleys, which got 0.4 inches of rain statewide. Northern Utah received only 0.2 inches.
That left the lower elevations’ water year total to date at 7.3 inches, again below average.
Except for a 1% sliver of the northernmost part of the state, Utah was almost entirely in drought condition in July, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System.
Even worse, 10.2% of the state, mostly in the southern end, reached the “D3 Extreme Drought” level.
In a D3 area, effects include major crop and pasture losses and widespread water shortages or restrictions.
Fortunately, none of the state has worsened to D4, the Exceptional Drought classification, Clayton said.
The impact in a D4 region includes exceptional and widespread crop and pasture losses and water shortages creating emergencies.
Most of the Wasatch Front from Ogden to Provo is at D2, Severe Drought. The problems in a D2 region are some crop and pasture losses, water shortages and water restrictions.
According to federal drought data, 28% of U.S. land area is in drought condition, affecting 52.4 million people.
Extreme or exceptional drought exists in Utah and 10 other states.
On the bright side in Utah, solid reservoir storage has prevented irrigation or other water supply problems this summer.
Statewide storage was at 76% of capacity at the end of July, the climate report said.
Clayton said that’s largely due to carryover supply from the banner water year of 2018-19.
You can reach reporter Mark Shenefelt at email@example.com or 801 625-4224. Follow him on Twitter at @mshenefelt.