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Letter: Gov. Cox should ask farmers to cut their water usage

Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune The Welby water district canal runs through farmland in Bluffdale, Wednesday, September 17, 2014

In recent comments on Utah’s water usage, a large elephant in the room seems to have been ignored. According to the Utah Foundation’s 2013 study, public uses account for only 10% of Utah’s water consumption. The largest single consumer is agriculture, responsible for 82% of all water used. Interestingly, I have yet to hear a single appeal to farmers and ranchers to cut their water consumption! It’s disappointingly easy to find areas of the state irrigated with center-pivot systems spraying water into the air rather than using the much more efficient down-spraying systems. Even worse, there are still open-ditch and flood irrigation areas in the state.

And then there are the crops: Alfalfa is the largest single agricultural product grown in Utah. It is also one of the thirstiest: One study indicated that alfalfa can use a total of 24 inches of water between April and August. This in the nation’s second-driest state, where average waterfall along the Wasatch Front is only about 15″; the driest parts of the state get much less than that. One University of Utah professor is quoted as saying: “They are using thousands of dollars of water to produce hundreds of dollars of hay.” Overall, about half the water used in Utah goes into alfalfa, much of which is exported to China, Japan, and the Middle East — essentially exporting Utah water.

I’m glad that Gov. Cox has asked Utahns to pray for rain. Israelmore Aivor said, “in most cases, verbal prayer alone does not change anything; but when actions are blended with prayer, wonderful things happen.” I hope the governor asks Utah’s farmers (who use most of the water) to add to his prayers with actions on their parts to make their water usage lesser in quantity and greater in effectiveness.

Alan Eastman, Holladay

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