ST. GEORGE — Despite ongoing drought conditions, state officials say Utahns have saved billions of gallons of water through conservation efforts while programs like Flip the Strip have doubled their applications over last year. monsoon weather has also been credited with helping preserve water storage levels.
“Efforts to advance water conservation are having a significant impact on our ability to stretch the water supply,” Joel Ferry, acting executive director of the Department of Natural Resources, said in a press release from that agency. “Utah communities are responding by implementing water wise ordinances, and residents are turning off their sprinklers and removing unnecessary turf. All of this helps reduce our water use.”
Monsoon rains, while doing little to help refill the state’s reservoirs, helped preserve water storage levels due to the summer rains prompting people to cut back on outdoor watering, said Karry Rathje, a spokeswoman for the Washington County Water Conservancy District.
In Washington County specifically, the monsoonal rains helped preserve 11.5 million gallons of water this year over last year, according to the Division of Water Resources. This has happened despite an almost 5% increase in connections to the county’s water system.
Last month, 84% of the state was in a state of extreme drought with nearly 100% in a state of severe drought, the two most serious drought levels listed by the US Drought Monitor. As of Thursday, the levels of extreme drought and severe drought in Utah have dropped to 63% and 97% respectively. The reduction has been credited to the monsoon.
Concerning reservoirs, 30 of 47 of the reservoirs in the state monitors as below 55% capacity, which is slightly better than last year, but still down around 18% lower than normal for this time of time of year.
Locally, Quail Creek and Sand Hollow, Washington County’s two largest reservoirs, are at 61% and 65%. This is an 8% drop in capacity for both reservoirs compared to this time last year, Rathje said.
“It may not seem like a lot of water, but is it,” she said.
As for other reservoirs managed by the water district, Gunlock Reservoir sits at 52% while Kolob Reservoir is practically full at 97%.
Cities in Washington County recently passed the most water restrictive ordinances for new development in Utah. The new ordinances are projected to save nearly 11 billion gallons over the next decade.
The ordinances also require the use of secondary (untreated) water and reuse (treated wastewater) for outdoor irrigation where available.
Harmful algal blooms continue to be a problem in the state and remain present in the North Fork of the Virgin River, LaVerkin Creek and North Creek, which includes the Subway in Zion National Park. These bodies of water remain under state-issued health and warning advisories.
Visitors are advised to check habs.utah.gov for current conditions of water bodies in the state and report suspicious algae.
Many people have taken advantage of the Flip Your Strip program where available. The program offers landowners rebates for removing their park strips (this is usually the strip of lawn that usually sits between the curb and sidewalk).
The Washington County Water Conservancy, in partnership with the Division of Water Resources, plans to offer lawn-removal rebates sometime this fall on a first-come-first-serve basis. A date for the program’s roll out has year to be announced.
Residents looking for tips on how to help reduce water consumption can be found at SlowtheFlow.Org.
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