BY RYAN SPELTS
It seems like all we hear about lately is water and the drought.
Well, that is if you ignore all the COVID-19 talk. At the risk of repeating all that has already been said, we wanted to give you some information, just in case you have not heard about this already.
Northern Utah had lower-than-average snowpack this year. We also had soil moisture levels lower than ever before recorded; actually, they were the worst ever recorded, meaning that the soil soaked up more of the run-off than expected. In addition to these challenges, you may have noticed that we have had very little rain this year. The clouds have only been willing to open up enough to make the dust on our cars turn into spots.
Most of Utah, along with most of the West, is classified as currently in an exceptional drought, or in other words, the worst level of drought classified by the U.S. government. This is now being called a once-in-100-years’ drought conditions.
In order to plan for these types of years, Weber Basin stores water in our reservoirs. In fact, they usually have two years of water on hand, just in case. However, they typically can gather about 70,000 – 80,000-acre feet of water per year from the Weber River for future use. This year, they have only been able to gather 3,000-acre feet of water. A similar poor number has been saved up this year from each of our water ways. Overall, we are having a terrible water year.
So, what do we do? For one, we are going to lose our secondary water early (the water your sprinklers use). Weber Basin is still trying to figure out when that will be, because we may not have enough water to make it to the original early cut-off dates. Cities are also considering imposing fines on those who decide to use culinary water (the water that comes out of your faucets) to water their lawns during this drought. By now, we know we shouldn’t water between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., but we are also being asked to only water two times per week.
Weber Basin has seen a marked drop in water usage, starting early in July. They have been working with news outlets and community leaders to get the word out, asking residents to reduce usage, and it is working, but more adoption is still needed. This situation is dire and, hopefully, temporary. Moving to two times per week on your sprinklers is a starting point. You may have to water trees and shrubs more but water your grass less. Beuna Tomalino, Landscape Consultant and owner of Basil & Rose Garden shop in Bountiful, says, “Kentucky Blue Grass naturally goes dormant in the summer. We keep it green by watering. When there is rain, snow, or consistent watering again, it will green up again.” I know many of us are worried about our beautiful grass lawns. At our house, we have been cutting our lawn much longer and watering two times per week, and it is performing remarkably well. After a few weeks of looking like it would die completely, it has greened back up, with the exception of a few very dry spots.
A combination of lower snow pack, lower soil moisture levels, and little rain has made for a very dry year, or exceptional drought.
I know this is not fun, positive news or what any of us want to hear, because we love our lawns. This is an exceptional year that needs extraordinary action, and we hope you will work on your own personal water usage. We also hope you will not judge your neighbor, who may not follow the regulations as precisely as you would prefer. We do not condone shaming someone for their choices, period. If you want to make a statement, consider getting a sign like one of my neighbors did: “Conserve Water, Go Brown,” and let’s keep praying for rain.