Did you know that water is a very precious resource in our desert climate? According to the U.S. Geologic Survey, Utah is the 2nd driest state in the nation, but we used more domestic (household) water, per person, than all other states except Idaho in 2010. Many Utahns over-water their lawns and waste water with broken sprinklers or by watering sidewalks. In Utah we have a drought that could become a serious problem, so I suggest we get serious about conserving water.
When you are in a desert like Utah, water is not everywhere. In the Salt Lake Valley, we get most of our water from snow in our mountains, which melts and fills up creeks and reservoirs. Over the last decade, we have had less snow than usual, which is not good. As our population increases, periods of drought become a bigger problem, so there is an even greater need to conserve our water.
According to Salt Lake City Water Conservation Manager Stephanie Duer, encouraging people to use water wisely and informing them of the consequences of wasting water has better results than creating new water conservation laws.
Between 2000 and 2015, Salt Lake City water users cut their water usage quite a bit, and it was all through voluntary compliance. (See chart from SLC Public Utilities.) Duer believes that even more voluntary water conservation could happen in the future, although she thinks it might be a good idea to create good laws to increase water conservation, if needed. “A good law is a law that is flexible, doesn’t have unintended consequences, and achieves intended results,” said Duer.
Here’s a surprising question for you: How much water would you save if you water your lawn at 2 a.m. for 20 minutes instead of 2 p.m. for 20 minutes? The answer is none. If you water your lawn for 20 minutes, the water will start running off the lawn. You actually only need to water your lawn for 8 minutes at a time. Most people over-water their lawns.
Here’s another question for you: What is the most common type of drought-tolerant plant used in our Utah landscaping? The answer is Kentucky Bluegrass, which is a surprisingly very drought-tolerant grass, because it can survive for long periods of time without water by going dormant. However, it needs a lot of water to stay green and soft, so you could save water by replacing it with a better grass or another type of landscape. For more information on water efficient landscaping, visit www.cwel.usu.edu or www.SLCgardenwise.com.
Apart from watering lawns too much, there are other ways of squandering (wasting) water. In your bathroom you probably have a sink where you brush your teeth every night. To save water, you could turn off the faucet while you brush. After using the toilet, you can flush it once, but don’t use the toilet as a trash can. Also, if you can get in the habit of taking 5-minute showers, that would save even more water! If you want to learn more about conserving water, go to www.SLCgov.com/waterconservation on your computer or handheld device.
Connor Jepperson, age 13, is the son of Publisher/Editor Charlotte Fife-Jepperson and a Poplar Grove resident. This opinion piece fulfills part of Connor’s 7th grade Utah Studies class assignment “to help the State of Utah in some way.” It was Connor’s idea to write this article and he pitched his story idea and participated in this issue’s community newsroom meetings.