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Bad News Abounds at Drought Meeting

Bad News Abounds at Drought Meeting

Posted - Apr. 15, 2004 at 10:05 p.m.



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John Daley reporting The Western drought is intensifying. Things are getting worse across the board in Utah.

From reservoir storage, to agriculture and wildfires, the 6th consecutive year of drought is taking a severe toll.

High and dry.

During a record warm March, Utah saw a solid snowpack virtually vanish, a sure sign the drought is growing longer and getting stronger.

At the year's first monthly drought meeting of top state agency leaders, it's wall-to-wall bad news.

Reservoirs, Deer Creek --source of Salt Lake water-- and others...steadily dropping.

1999, major reservoirs were essentially full. Now, water storage is well below 50%. If the drought persists, by decade's end even huge reservoirs will start running out.

Larry Anderson, Director/Division of Water Resources: "We had high hopes through the winter when we got all the snow, but uh, right now, things look terrible, snowpack is way down."

Randy Julander, Utah Snow Survey: "You start looking at the operations of say Lake Powell and Bear Lake, and places like that and it's getting right down to grim reaper time in terms of how much water they're going to be able to deliver."

Agriculture, ranchers and farmers: All feeling the heat.

Photos tell the story. Taken near Mountain Home--which is on the Nevada border in Beaver County—a picture shows green rangelands in 1998--before the drought hit.

Another photo--taken at the exact same spot 5 years later--shows there's virtually no grass left for livestock--or wildlife.

Mormon crickets, invading more territory and hatching earlier.

Fish hatcheries and tourism have been hit hard with some popular boating spots. Utah Lake, Willard Bay and Deer Creek, all expecting levels to drop so low there could be no access.

Parched forests...at risk of wildfires. The drought and insect infestation have ravaged pine trees--leaving many dead or dying. Massive blazes are now a constant worry.

Joel Frandsen, State Forester : "We expect to have at least as bad a fire season as we had last year and maybe worse."

No doubt--when it comes to drought--Utah may be the epicenter.

And, it's not just Utah. The drought is the worst ON RECORD ... for the entire Colorado River Basin. According to the Bureau of Reclamation, if the drought persists through the end of the decade , Lake Powell would be so low, it would be impossible to continue generating electricity.

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