Utah completely clear of moderate drought for the first time in 5 years

A sailboat is seen at the Great Salt Lake State Park in Magna on June 15. The U.S. Drought Monitor reported Thursday that there is no moderate drought in Utah for the first time since 2019.

A sailboat is seen at the Great Salt Lake State Park in Magna on June 15. The U.S. Drought Monitor reported Thursday that there is no moderate drought in Utah for the first time since 2019. (Marielle Scott, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Storms that pelted eastern Utah over the past couple of weeks have lifted Utah out of moderate drought for the first time in nearly five years.

The U.S. Drought Monitor listed no parts of Utah in moderate drought in its weekly report released on Thursday, which last happened in its report released on Aug. 20, 2019. Adam Hartman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center, explained that the storms essentially only brought drought improvements to areas close to southeast Utah.

"A couple of troughs of low pressure were able to bring some moisture from the Pacific Ocean northward into the Desert Southwest and Four Corners (regions)," he wrote in an adjoining report.

Utah had been virtually out of moderate drought for some time before this week. The U.S. Drought Monitor listed less than 1% of moderate drought every week since mid-May after above-normal precipitation the past two winters eliminated all of the severe drought categories that had plagued Utah from mid-2020 to early 2023.

A sliver of eastern Utah was the only section where drought had lingered.

But the Beehive State isn't completely out of the woods just yet. A little more than a quarter of the state is now listed as "abnormally dry," up slightly from the past few weeks. A segment of northeast Utah is now included in this category, which is the precursor to moderate drought.

Utah last avoided "abnormally dry" status in April 2017, although the percentage of the state in this category reached as low as 0.03% in July 2019 — just before Utah's latest run of drought began.

The state will likely enter drought again at some point in the future because drought cycles are a common feature in Utah and across the West. However, the back-to-back wet winters produced other key benefits for the state. Utah's reservoir system entered July at 91% of capacity, which means the system remains the highest it has been since 2011.

Jordan Clayton, a hydrologist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, said last month that the past two winters were "the best two seasons we've had in a row since 2005 and 2006."

While it's declining again, the Great Salt Lake's southern arm also reached 4,195 feet elevation this year for the first time since 2019.

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Carter Williams is a reporter who covers general news, local government, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com.

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