Unless this winter provides substantial moisture, Bear River water users may have to reduce their irrigation by 25 percent to 30 percent next year, a Utah Power & Light Co. official says.

"Bear Lake is at its lowest level since 1961, and by the end of the month it will probably be at its lowest level since the early '40s," Carly Burton told members of the Bear River Task Force."The severity of this drought can't be overestimated," he said.

According to the state Division of Water Resources, Box Elder County has 105,619 acres of cropland irrigated by water from the Bear River Basin.

Burton said UP&L, which pumps water out of Bear Lake for downstream water users, had all five of its pumps operating because of the low lake level for the first time ever on July 5.

He said irrigation companies were asked to reduce their demands by 25 percent. And next year could be worse.

He said water use, unless nature cooperates, may have to be curtailed at the beginning of the season.