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The Bears Ears Mountains outside of Blanding, Utah, in April 2021. Photo: George Frey/Getty Images

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) issued a declaration on Thursday that urges residents to pray for rain as the state experiences record drought.

Why it matters: At least 90% of the state is currently experiencing "extreme" to "exceptional" drought, the two worst categories, according to data from the U.S. Drought Monitor.

What he's saying: "I've already asked all Utahns to conserve water by avoiding long showers, fixing leaky faucets and planting water-wise landscapes. But I fear those efforts alone won't be enough to protect us," Cox said in a video.

  • “We need more rain, and we need it now. We need some divine intervention. That’s why I’m asking Utahns of all faiths to join me in a weekend of prayer June 4 through the 6th," the governor added.
  • Cox has issued two drought emergency orders so far this year.

Thought bubble, via Axios climate reporter Andrew Freedman: Like most of the West, Utah is locked in the grips of a brutal drought that's likely to worsen as the summer heat kicks in.

  • Climate change is increasing the severity and frequency of such events. Right now, more of the U.S. is in the most severe drought categories than at any time so far this century.

The big picture: The Colorado River and its tributaries are approaching record-low flows this year, and the drought in the Colorado River basin, which includes Utah, could be the worst it has seen in 1,200 years, according to Bloomberg.

  • Water levels are getting so low in Lake Mead, on the Colorado River, that they're likely to trigger a rare water shortage declaration, which would prompt cuts in water deliveries to several thirsty states, especially Arizona.

Go deeper: Southwest's new climate peril

Go deeper

Satellite images show historic drought's impact on Colorado River in 1 year

From left; Satellite images of Boulder Harbor Launch Ramp at Lake Mead in Boulder City, Nevada, on May 18, 2020, and on July 17 this year. Photo: Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies

Newly released satellite images of the Colorado River and Lake Mead in Nevada show the impact the historic drought has had on the region in just one year.

The big picture: The nation's largest reservoir by volume is at its lowest level since being filled after the Hoover Dam's completion in the 1930s — prompting the federal government to this week for the first time declare a water shortage for Lake Mead. The Hoover Dam has been operating below its maximum capacity all summer, and it may drop further.

Monster California wildfires force fresh evacuations and raze more homes

Plumes of wildfire smoke rise as trees burn during the Dixie Fire near Susanville, California, on Wednesday. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Two massive wildfires were threatening Northern California communities as a smaller blaze tore through a mobile home park amid gusty conditions late Wednesday, with much of the region under red flag warnings.

The latest: Fresh mandatory evacuation orders were issued for Susanville as the historic Dixie Fire closed in on the Lassen County town. Meanwhile, the monster Calder Fire continued to raze structures in the Sierra Nevada — including a church and a school, per the Los Angeles Times.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
2 hours ago - Health

Gottlieb: CDC hampered U.S. response to COVID

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The CDC moved too slowly at several points in the coronavirus pandemic, ultimately hindering the U.S. response, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb writes in a new book, Uncontrolled Spread.

The big picture: The book argues that American intelligence agencies should have a much bigger role in pandemic preparedness, even if that's sometimes at the expense of public health agencies like the CDC.