Utah is in a state of emergency. It doesn’t get much more serious than that, especially in parts of the state where our farmers didn’t even have a second crop to harvest this year.
And we’re anticipating a warm winter with less moisture and that means we are not expecting a lot of relief come spring. When we did finally get rain — in the first four days of October we had more rain than we had all summer — the ground was so dry, it soaked up the water like a sponge, leaving little to replenish our dwindling resources.
We need to realize that this is the effect of the climate changes we are seeing in Utah. And because water ties into everything in life, from how much food we produce to our energy supplies and economic opportunities, it is time to consider what we need to do to not only survive but thrive in desert conditions.
Sounds dire, doesn’t it? But in the middle of it all, the Central Utah Water Conservancy District has maintained near-capacity levels in reservoirs located in our higher altitudes, where evaporation is less likely to siphon it away. We have sustainable energy in the new Olmsted Hydroelectric Power Plant, where we can harness the power of the roaring water before using it to meet our water needs.
And The Wells at Vineyard are well underway, no pun intended, opening access to some of the best drinking water in the Intermountain region. Each is something to celebrate, even as we look for ways to responsibly use water so that future generations will have a usable water supply.
You’ve often heard the predictions, that Utah’s population is expected to double in coming decades without significant increases in our water supply. What many don’t realize, though, is that 80 percent of that growth will come from our children and grandchildren, who are expected to stick around. That fact puts a whole new spin on the issue, especially in a state where one of our core values is family. No one wants our children to become our greatest export!
So where does that leave us?
We need to start making smarter decisions in our every-day routines. By now, most of us should have water-efficient faucets, shower heads and toilets in our homes, and EPA WaterSense-labeled sprinkler controllers for our lawns.
Now we need to take the next step. We don’t need to rip out our lawns, but we need to look more closely at where we actually NEED grass. Take a look at your water footprint; how can buying local produce diminish the water lost transporting food from far-away sources? Is it time to use public transit?
Let’s make the lifestyle changes while they’re still voluntary! And if you see your neighbors watering their yards long after Columbus Day, let them know it is only preventing their grass from going into the dormant state that will allow it to survive the winter. That is your future seeping away!
At CUWCD, we take it seriously, too. While the new wells have ready supplies, we are moving forward responsibly, avoiding the temptation to rob the district piggy bank.
We are also reaching out to a new generation, giving them the knowledge and tools they will need to handle operations when we pack away our beakers and microscopes.
Already, we’ve tweaked our curriculum workshops for local educators, making it more real and even giving them the equipment to explore mysteries that we are trying to unravel. Every bit helps.