Good new desert dwellers. Although Utah is the second driest state in the U.S. (Nevada
being the first) we don’t let that get us down. We still have the second highest use of water per capita. Nothing beats back the summer heat like a tall glass of cold water while you wash your car in the driveway at the same time your automated, leaky irrigation system waters your Kentucky Bluegrass lawn during the middle of the day. Ahhh, refreshing. And as long as there is an increasing amount of snow in the mountains every winter ad infinitum, we won’t ever get our comeuppance. No comeuppance, you here me!
St. George is located in the driest county in Utah and it has the highest per capita water consumption rate for an desert city in the U.S. at 335 gallons per person per day. Yeahaw! Now, I realize that it is of dire importance to all of us to keep those golf greens in St. George green, but explain that to a land that just can’t support such water usage. But what to do?
Over 100 years ago water in Utah became a for-profit commodity. Along with that came government subsidies historically around 50%. All of this means that Utah has some of the cheapest water prices in the country, and this in the second driest state in the Union. Common sense? or a disaster waiting to happen? or a disaster in progress?
Utah has been growing in population consistently for many years, and yet somewhere in the neighborhood of 87% of our water goes to agriculture. Farmers are important to our state, no doubt. But the crops that we grow, and the manner that we grow them in this state have to change.
The Utah Rivers Council promotes raising our conservation goal by 5% up to a 30% increase total. While realistic, this goal doesn’t strike me as sufficient. The Council has also been promoting practical steps like the “rip your strip” initiative. Water Wise Utah is promoting the use of an on-line water calculator. Utah needs much more severe legislation, using a creative combination of carrots and sticks, and a smarter, better educated public. But ultimately, Utahans simply haven’t cared enough about their precious water resources while living in a desert.