By Linda Townes, Conservation Garden Park
If you’re someone who hates the snow, or wishes it would only fall in the mountains, I’ll bet you get asked why you live in Utah, where winter is roughly half the year. I’m one of “those people” who might ask. I love the snow. Everything about it is a delight to me: the cold, the quiet, the color. But, this winter — this winter that pummeled even me into throes of agony and exclamations of “when will this ever end?” — was tough.
The good news? All that blinding whiteness brought us water. Happy day!
The reservoirs are filling. We can boat this summer … and fish, and swim and water our lawns. But, is that really what we do with all that water? No, unfortunately, 60 percent of our precious resource goes to grass. And, just because the reservoirs are full, it doesn’t mean we have water to spare. Utah’s dance with drought and excess is wildly unbalanced: drought years far outnumber the excessively wet ones — and they’re gaining in number.
Our reservoirs are why we enjoy our quality of life in the desert. But we draw so much water from them in our dry years, that it takes more than one wet year to fill them. Our collective sigh of relief when snow finally comes in abundance should only last while it falls. Once the heat arrives, we turn on our sprinklers and draw down the water faster than Mother Nature can replenish.
What’s the takeaway from all this? We need more snow. That, or we need to rethink how we use the water. Here are two simple ideas:
Wait to Water
Wet springs present an incredible opportunity to train our lawns. Waiting to start our sprinklers until Mother’s Day, or even later, allows the soil to dry, which makes our grass roots chase after the water. Deeper, stronger and healthier roots mean a healthier, more resilient lawn. And waiting to water keeps that water in our reservoirs. If you need direction, a state watering guide is available at conservewater.utah.gov/guide.
Flip your Strip
They call it a “hell strip” for good reason. That narrow strip of grass between your sidewalk and the road is the hottest, driest part of anyone’s yard, which means it needs the most water. It’s also a shape that’s nearly impossible to water efficiently. “Flipping” it from grass to drip irrigation and drought-tolerant plants saves lots of water. Utahwatersavers.com even offers money for making the change, if you live in a qualifying area, and Localscapes.com/designs has free designs.
Living in Utah means two things: it’s going to snow, and conservation messaging is here to stay, regardless of how much we get. While we can’t control the amount of snow we receive, we can certainly affect how much of that water we keep. We hope you’ll join us in making a few small changes to how you use outdoor water, so our reservoirs will stay full for longer.
For more information on how to make your landscape Utah friendly, visit conservationgardenpark.org or Localscapes.com. Want some money for making changes? Visit utahwatersavers.com.