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Metcalf: What would Brigham do?

Published August 31, 2013 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

When Brigham Young told the pioneers to make the desert bloom like the rose, he was not talking about Kentucky blue grass and had no idea how many of his people there would be in Utah 170 years later.

And being the practical leader that he was, Young would probably now be telling his people to conserve water — and they would.

Utah is the second-driest state and has one of the highest per-capita water usage rates in the country.

Here are some suggested solutions to our dilemma:

1. Ask The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to tell adherents to conserve water, with specific guidelines for individuals, families, and in certain circumstances. Profligate water use has become a moral issue and for that reason the church should speak.

2. Research what other dry states charge their consumers for water, then increase Utah user fees, including the state, school districts, businesses — essentially all property owners — and eliminate all subsidies. This alone would reduce usage, inversely proportionate to the howls of protest.

3. Suggest, as I believe New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada do, that people let their lawns go brown from June through September. The lawns will rebound in the fall.

4. Nevada gives a rebate for killing a lawn and replacing it with xeriscape/rainscape. Go thou and do likewise.

5. Finally, begin negotiations with the LDS and Catholic churches to take a public stand to stabilize population growth in Utah. For it is ultimately our birth rate — the highest in the nation — that feeds our ever-increasing thirst for water.

Tom Metcalf is a retired pediatrician and community activist living in Murray.