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Cox, farmers plead with Utahns to save water

Posted at 9:53 AM, Jul 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-16 23:53:11-04

LAYTON, Utah — Farmers across Utah remain in survival mode as the state's historic drought continues.

WATCH: New signs encourage people to save water during drought

“So we’ve had droughts before and I would say this is, in my time farming 25-30 years, it’s the most we’ve felt the effects of it for sure,” said Tyson Roberts at a news conference hosted by Gov. Spencer Cox.

Roberts' family has been farming in the Layton area since 1848. He says this year he has alfalfa and vegetables in his fields, all of which are feeling the effects of less water.

“Not only did we plant less acreage, but we don’t have enough water to water all of the vegetables, so the quality will be a little less and the yield will be considerably less,” said Roberts.

READ: Utah officials say drought recovery could take years

Utah farmers have had their water cut 70-75%, meaning they’re not able to grow as many crops, and in return that’s impacting the food supply.

“We’re going to feel the effects of the drought, especially among agriculture for years to come,” said Cox.

Not only will there be less food to go around in our communities, but every sector of our economy will be impacted by the drought.

“Farmers will be purchasing less seed and supply from their neighborhood co-ops, there will be fewer equipment purchases and upgrades, less money in general will be circulating the local economy as a result of this drought,” Cox said.

READ: Extreme drought continues to take toll on Utah waterways

Using less water cuts into crop harvests, nutrition and consumption for animals and will change the supply and cost of food.

“When the price of food goes up, the wealthy will be just fine, the middle class will do okay, but the most needy amongst us are going to feel it the most,” said Cox. “When our farmers struggle because of drought, there’s a tax on the poor.”

It’s a passionate topic for Cox who is a farmer himself, yet one man wishes Cox would talk more about solutions rather than simply identifying the problems.

Zach Frankel started the Utah Rivers Council back in 1994 after observing Utah’s conservation efforts in comparison to other states.

“We knew Utah was lagging behind,” said Frankel.

In more than two decades, Frankel watched multiple water conservations bills be presented and stopped at the legislature.

Looking at each bill, Frankel calculated the estimated percentage of proposed conservation and added it all together for a rough estimate of what could have been.

“If you add up how much has led to waste, it is equivalent of a reservoir of 1.5 million acre-feet,” said Frankel.

That’s why state officials say it’s so important residents conserve our water.

“If everyone conserved, our farmers can produce a little bit more this year and get through and be back even better and stronger next year,” pleaded Cox.

One of the easiest ways to conserve is cutting back on watering the lawn.

“If we can grow food with it instead of a lawn, then I think it’s a good move,” said Roberts.