Exceptional drought calls for exceptional measures. Or does it?


This article is part of a series addressing topics relevant to water security in southwestern Utah. Look for stories online on select Fridays and in print on select Saturdays that feature updates on ongoing water issues, interviews with experts and explorations of how we can ensure a better water future for our growing communities.

Last week, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox issued an executive order declaring a statewide drought emergency. In the press release that followed, he urged Utahns to “evaluate their water use and find ways to save not only because of current drought conditions but also because we live in one of the driest states in the nation.”

The suggested water-saving recommendations from the Governor’s office included the following: fixing leaks; running full loads (dishwashers and washing machines); turning off the water while brushing teeth, shaving, soaping up, doing dishes or rinsing vegetables; reducing showers by at least one minute; waiting to water; and planning now for the irrigation season by implementing water-wise landscaping or purchasing a smart irrigation controller.

These measures are needed because, according to the Governor’s March 17 release, “following a record dry summer and fall, this winter’s snowpack is about 70% of average for the year. For snowpack to reach average, Utah’s mountains would need to receive the remaining 30% before it starts to melt significantly, typically the first week in April. There is around a 10% chance of this occurring.”

More: The Water Tap: It snowed! Is the drought over?

Brian Steed, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources and chair of the Drought Response Committee, also chimed in to “urge people to consider ways they can save water and help be part of the solution.”

At an estimated 248 gallons per person per day, Utahns use more water from the public supply than residents of any other state, according to a 2018 estimate by the Utah Geological Survey that was based on 2010 U.S. Geological Survey data, with Nevada and Idaho ranking close behind. Local water managers argue that these numbers are not directly comparable between states due to differences in the way water use is measured. But with estimates from the USGS calculating the national average at less than 100 gallons of water use per person per day, it seems there is likely room for improvement in Utah no matter how the meters are read.

In the very first edition of The Water Tap, The Spectrum & Daily News surveyed locals about their water use and found that, on average, we are using twice as much water at home as we…

Read more:: Exceptional drought calls for exceptional measures. Or does it?

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