Don't water outside for a week, Salt Lake County conservationists plead

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WEST JORDAN — This recent bout of spring rains has done nothing to erase the effects of a prolonged drought, but experts say the extra moisture means residents don't need to turn on their outdoor faucets for at least the next week.

Rainy weather has reduced the need for any outdoor irrigation at this point and residents should embrace wise watering practices for the duration of the summer, said Richard Bay, general manager of the Jordan Valley Water Conservation District.

Bay spoke at a Monday press conference held at his district's conservation garden, which showcases variations of six landscapes that reduce outdoor water need by 50 percent or more.

The desert landscape, with its brilliant flowers and an array of plants, has not had any water beyond rain for nine years — and it flourishes, Bay said.

Given that the Salt Lake County area has just come off its driest and warmest winter on record, Bay and others are pleading with residents, businesses and cities to exercise prudence with what is left of the available water supply.

Salt Lake County

On Tuesday, members of the Salt Lake County Council are poised to adopt a resolution encouraging conservation.

... we are in our fourth year of drought. Though Salt Lake County is not restricting water use, it is vital that we join together to help conserve this precious resource.

–Aimee Winder Newton, SLCO councilwoman

"We've had the warmest, least snow-packed winter on record, and we are in our fourth year of drought," said Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton. "Though Salt Lake County is not restricting water use, it is vital that we join together to help conserve this precious resource."

Statewide, reservoir storage stands at 65 percent of capacity. Most snow melt has already occurred, and peak stream flows have already been reached, weeks ahead of schedule.

The latest analysis of the conditions put out by the Utah Snow Survey of the Natural Resources Conservation Service warns of pending shortages and reductions that may have to be made in secondary water allocations.

Other government guidelines

At the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, board members are slated to hold an emergency teleconference later this week to vote on likely reductions, a step that was taken in 2013.

Sandy has a time of day ordinance that restricts outdoor watering to the night-time hours and Lehi has implemented aggressive restrictions as well. Saratoga Springs has adopted new water rates for irrigation that are tied to actual consumption. Those rates go into effect this summer.

Salt Lake County is coordinating with the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District to ask residents to:

  • Refrain from outdoor watering except between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.
  • Leave grass a little longer and keep the "automatic" sprinkler system on manual for now.
  • Go to the district's website on a daily basis to look for watering advisories on wise watering practices.

Newton added that the county has taken its own steps to reduce water consumption, including implementing similar types of changes at its 5,000 acres of parks and open space. The county, too, has been evaluating places where sod could be replaced with less thirsty vegetation, Newton added.

County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson said the county will also look to the individual cities for implementation of water-wise strategies, noting the partnership that has to take place.

Bay said officials are worried that these rainstorms will wash away the awareness of Utah's pressing drought situation.

"These rainstorms have not been drought busters," he said. "What we are talking about here today is creating a new ethic, a cultural shift in looking at how we use water."

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Amy Joi O'Donoghue


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