Lessons from the 2017 Water Year: Predicting the weather is hard

By Megan Hatch, Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District

One year ago, the National Weather Service declared Utah drought-free for the first time since 2011—mostly thanks to a winter of heavy snow and a January with more than double the average precipitation for that time of year. Who would have thought that just a year later, January would bring 60-degree weather and arguably one of the worst snowpacks in Utah history? If there’s one thing we can predict about the weather, it’s that you can’t predict the weather.

A story in the Bible tells about a great drought and famine that came to the people of Egypt. Like us, they lived in a desert but were blessed with a solid water source—the Nile River. The Egyptian Pharaoh had a series of strange dreams that were interpreted by a young Hebrew servant named Joseph (anyone seen Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat?). Joseph told Pharaoh that the Egyptians would experience seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine and drought. With this warning, the Egyptians planned, prepared, and saved. And when the rains stopped, they were ready.

Archaeologists have known for years that drought in the Mediterranean was likely the cause of the fall of civilizations there, but recent findings from Tel Aviv University have shown that preparations during times of plenty probably extended the life of the Egyptian empire a half century longer than it might have otherwise lasted—they just didn’t adapt enough. Check out an article about it in the New York Times called, “Faced with Drought, the Pharaohs Tried (And Failed) to Adapt.”

Years of plenty, like 2016-2017, provide opportunities to store water in our reservoirs so that when dry years hit, we have enough water. But unless Governor Herbert has had dreams that he’s not telling us about, it’s impossible to know how long our “seasons of plenty” or “seasons of drought” will last—that’s why it’s so important to use water resources wisely all the time. Lessons from ancient Egypt can stand as an example: It is time to prepare and adapt.

As we enter the 2018 watering season, remember to use only what you need. Here are a few quick tips to help you use water more efficiently this spring:

  1. Only Water When You Need to: Step on your lawn. Does the grass spring back up? If it does, you don’t need to water yet. Watering deeply and infrequently forces the lawn’s roots to grow deeper, allowing it to better survive the hot summer temperatures.


  1. Fix Leaks: When you turn on your sprinklers for the first time, be sure to check for leaks. Even a small leak can waste thousands of gallons of water.


  1. Do a Landscape Upgrade: Spring is a great time to make changes to your yard. Consider installing a water-efficient park strip or converting an irrigation zone to drip. Small changes like this can lead to big water savings.


If you want to learn how to be more efficient with the yard you have, or are ready to install something new, free resources are available to help you at Conservation Garden park.