Water Resilience: Preparing for the Unpredictable

By Linda Townes, Conservation Garden Park

Recently the Governor declared a state of emergency because of the extreme drought this year. So even though it recently rained, the “water year” is seasonally calculated and runs from October 1 through September 30 and the 2018 water year was the driest year on record.

And yet there were no statewide watering restrictions. If our drought situation warranted a state of emergency, how did we not have watering restrictions? The simple answer is good water resource planning—but creating and implementing a plan is anything but simple! Water conservancy districts throughout Utah have been tasked with the responsibility of water supply planning and development, and reservoirs are the key to turning our unpredictable snowpack into a reliable water supply for an ever-growing population.

Planning

The reservoirs that store our drinking water are extremely low right now, but have successfully done what they were designed to do: store water from years of abundance to provide water in years of drought. The “forefathers” of water districts in the valley knew that a robust population was possible, and they made plans to ensure we’d have enough water, especially in times of drought. This task is becoming more and more challenging with the prospects of global warming, continued population growth, environmental concerns, land-use density, and outdated landscaping ordinances.

Extreme Weather

This year was one of the driest on record for Utah. Climate change models predict that our snowfall will come more as rain in the future, and our existing water supplies will dwindle. Note: Snowpack and rainfall are not equal when it comes to water supply. Snowpack holds water in frozen reserve until spring runoff, which happens quickly and speeds water over land where some of it can be captured in reservoirs and used as it’s needed. Rainfall immediately infiltrates the soil and may take many years to work its way underground toward reservoirs—if it makes it there at all. Rainfall isn’t consistent or reliable.

Individual Impact

Every man, woman and child in Jordan Valley Water’s service area uses an average of 212 gallons of water every single day. Which, of course, considers lawn watering in the heat of the summer. More than 60 percent of the drinking water delivered by Jordan Valley is used on landscapes. It’s time we reconsider how we use our water on our landscapes and consider influencing our cities to promote no-lawn park strips and landscaping better suited for our dry climate.

It’s tempting to view our personal use as just a “drop in the bucket” but when average household use is nearly 200,000 gallons of water per year mainly for lawn, those are pretty big drops!

Utah lives in drought, but you don’t have to wait for watering restrictions to begin making landscape changes. Localscapes® is a great resource for designing our landscapes to be more user friendly, require less maintenance, and use about a third the water of a typical Utah landscape. Conservation Garden Park is the perfect place to learn. Stop by or visit our website to learn more. Our winter hours have begun, but we’d still love to see you and get you ready for next year’s landscaping season.

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