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AMERICAN FORK — Gov. Spencer Cox warned the state is heading into the worst drought and fire season it has seen while urging Utahns to conserve water, and a city in Utah County said it saved millions of gallons of water last month.
"We can't treat this year as any other year," said American Fork Mayor Brad Frost. "It's very, very real this year."
Frost has been the mayor of American Fork for about four years and has lived in the city for 54 years. But he said, "this is the first time that we know of that there has been an extreme drought declared before spring even happens."
Cox declared a state of emergency due to the drought in March and later issued an executive order limiting water use at state facilities.
That's what prompted Frost and the mayors of four more Utah County cities to ask their residents in mid-April to wait to water their lawns until May. And Frost said those two weeks amounted to a lot of saving in his city.
"That saved us over 160 million gallons of water," he said.
Sending a big shoutout to AF residents and businesses for your efforts to help conserve water this spring! With your help we saved 160,644,543 gallons of water in the month of April! Thank you and keep up the good work! pic.twitter.com/nDmzwlZ7Et— American Fork City (@AmericanForkAFC) May 19, 2021
The state said snowpack is about 70% of average and that a significant amount won't make it to reservoirs, where water levels are at 67% normal — compared to 80% this time last year.
In his monthly press conference, Cox said some parts of the state already had mandatory water restrictions in place and warned more local water districts could follow. He also didn't rule out restrictions on fireworks, depending on how much rain we receive between now and then.
"Let me just state unequivocally guys, it's really bad. It's as bad as it's been," Cox said. "We need everyone in the state to understand right now that we are headed into the worst drought and fire season we've ever seen. And we've seen some bad ones."
For now, Frost is asking his residents to voluntarily cut back on water usage, particularly on irrigation water.
"Just basic common-sense principles that we can all apply," he said. Things like limiting sprinkler use, shutting it off if it rains and watering dry areas by hand.
"Our calculations are, if everybody will just cut back 20% from last year's data, we'll save almost ¾ of a billion gallons of water," Frost said.