From the St. George Spectrum & Daily News (Joan Meiners):
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.”
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.”
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 think we are using (local estimated their home use at 127 gallons per day compared to the USGS-calculated 248). This is despite the fact that a majority of survey respondents reported being aware that water scarcity is an issue in southern Utah and said that they already make an effort to conserve water at home…
To be fair, some of our higher local water use is simply due to the realities of our environment here in the northern range of the Mojave Desert. Being one of the driest states — as Governor Cox pointed out — our outdoor landscapes will require more water to achieve the same result compared to lawns growing in Missouri or Virginia, due to drier soils and higher evaporative loss.
But that’s exactly why several other southwestern states sponsor programs to encourage people to replace their lawns with desert-friendly landscaping, or xeriscaping. Southern Utah does not currently offer any such turf removal incentives and, in past interviews, local water managers have been loathe to condemn the abundance of residential lawns, parks and golf courses throughout the region.
The initial The Water Tap also noted that domestic water use from the public supply makes up just 15% of total water use in Utah, while irrigation accounts for 72% of use, mostly to support local water-intensive crops like alfalfa. The fourth week of The Water Tap covered recent research findings that up to 55% of water throughout the Colorado River basin is spent irrigating cattle-feed crops.