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Here’s how you can help save water with 90% of Utah in extreme drought

Utah State University and a water district provide water conservation tips.

(Rick Bowmer | AP) Baked earth is shown along the receding edge of the Great Salt Lake near Antelope Island, Monday, Aug. 26, 2019.

With over 90% of the state experiencing extreme drought and a heat wave bringing record highs throughout the state this past week, Gov. Spencer Cox announced a “weekend of prayer” for locals to pray for rain. But Utahns can do their part — without divine intervention — to save the water we’ve got.

According to the Utah Division of Water Resources, cutting back on lawn watering can help provide some relief to the region. The division recommends residents of most counties should only irrigate their lawns twice a week rather than three times a week, with Summit County being the only exception at one irrigation per week.

Syracuse public works and the northern-Utah Weber Basin Water Conservancy District are both taking stricter measures to ensure water conservation within their communities. In Syracuse, residents are only allowed to water twice a week based on their address, enforced by the threat of fines. Both communities are warning of secondary water shut-offs to those who don’t follow the rules, according to Fox 13.

The Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District, one of the largest water districts in the state, treats and delivers water to the Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake & Sandy and provides untreated water to Salt Lake and Utah County for irrigation. Linda Townes-Cook, public information officer at Jordan Valley, recommended that residents follow the guidance the state has provided, and said the measures taken now will be crucial for the future, especially after last year’s “driest year on record” affected reservoirs.

“Drought can be really severe, but because people who came before us were visionary and built reservoirs, the water that’s stored there can help us stand several droughts,” Townes-Cook said. “The trick with this one is our reservoirs are pretty low, and the drought’s severe, so depending on how people use the water this year — and I’m speaking just from our service area — technically, we have enough water to get through the summer.”

Utah State University’s Center for Water Efficient Landscaping states that urban landscape irrigation accounts for 50-65% of the annual municipal water use in Utah, with much of the water being overused . The center recommends measures like hydrozoning, which means grouping together plants with similar watering needs; drip irrigation directly to plants and inspections of individuals’ own irrigation systems.

Utah State also listed recommendations for inside-the-home conservation methods, like taking shorter showers and using high-efficiency washers for laundry. UtahWaterSavers.com, a promoted program from the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy website, offers incentives for initiatives like toilet replacements — where Utahns can receive an up to $100 rebate when replacing an old toilet that uses more than 1.6 gallons per flush and was installed in homes built before 1994.

Although Townes-Cook said her service area has enough water to get through the summer, if residents disregard conservation measures and the dry trend continues next year, Jordan Valley’s water may run out.

“A lot of it depends on how people respond to this drought. If they water their lawns less, we’ll have more water in the reservoirs to use next year,” Townes-Cook said. “Water conservation has to become our lifestyle, because droughts are becoming more and more common.”

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