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Heavenly help sought to end western US drought

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Jan. 30, 2014: In this Thursday photo, residents attend a devotional at the Salvation Army in Los Banos, Calif. After the spiritual service, they each collect a bag of free food. Leaders at the Los Banos Salvation Army fear that the states drought will cause more people to need food this year because they wont have jobs on Central Valley farms. (AP)

Religious leaders of multiple faiths and farmers in Nevada and Utah turned to prayer this weekend for help easing severe drought conditions gripping the West.

The plea to above comes weeks after the federal government declared parts of 11 parched Western and Central states natural disaster areas.

Faith leaders asked for divine intervention during a special multifaith service Saturday at a Mormon church in the Reno suburb of Sparks. And on Sunday, the Utah Farm Bureau Federation asked the public to join in prayer and fasting for snow and rain for livestock and crops as part of its Harvesting Faith event.

"We can't go to the Legislature to ask for help, (so) we decided to go to the guy upstairs," Ron Gibson, a dairy farmer in Weber County, Utah, told the Deseret News. "One thing you learn as a farmer is most of the things that happen in your life are totally out of your control."

Rajan Zed, who organized the Nevada service, said Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Baha'i and other faith leaders who participated are confident it'll bring positive results.

"When God sees (all these) leaders sitting together in unity and harmony and praying in diverse traditions and seeking common good for the entire community, God will be naturally moved to provide the devotees relief from drought so that it will not affect their quality of life, livelihood and health," Zed said.

The special events were held two weeks after the federal government designated portions of 11 drought-ridden Western and Central states as primary natural disaster areas, highlighting the financial strain the lack of snow and rain is likely to bring to farmers in those regions.

The announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture included counties in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Kansas, Texas, Utah, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Oklahoma and California.

California officials announced Friday they won't send any water from the state's vast reservoir system to local agencies beginning this spring, an unprecedented move that affects drinking water supplies for 25 million people and irrigation for 1 million acres of farmland.

A snow survey on Thursday in the Sierra Nevada, one of the state's key water sources, found the water content in the snowpack is just 12 percent of normal.

Some Nevada farmers have said they're considering not irrigating fields after three years of below-normal rain and snow.

While Utah also is in dire need of moisture, the agricultural community remains optimistic after a day of prayer and fasting, said Leland Hogan, president of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation.

"We all believe in a greater good and in a higher being," he said. "Through that belief, we feel that there can be intervention into what we have, that if we can show forth faith ... that we could have more moisture than what we have today."

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