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Outdoor — and some indoor — water restrictions will be imposed in Utah this year

Posted at 3:51 PM, Mar 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-14 19:46:14-04

SALT LAKE CITY — More water restrictions will be imposed across the state as the drought continues into another year.

"We had the driest January and February on record," said Candice Hasenyager, the executive director of Utah's Division of Water Resources.

Recent storms have helped, but not enough to avoid the pending restrictions. Reservoirs are still about half full, and that's 10% lower than this same time last year, Hasenyager told FOX 13 News.

All of Utah remains in drought, but only a third of the state remains in extreme drought. The good news is, none of the state is in "exceptional drought" (the worst drought category there is). Local water districts are beginning to roll out restrictions in advance of what could be another hot, dry summer.

"We’re having these continued drought conditions and low water supply," Hasenyager said. "We will see more restrictions and potential additional user fees."

In Washington County, the water picture is a little better. Brie Thompson, the associate general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District, said there will still be some restrictions put in place by cities (the district's customers).

"We have time of day watering ordinances that municipalities enact," she said. "Our municipalities are also looking at landscape ordinances and... we’re always promoting conservation and pushing conservation measures."

READ: Great Salt Lake and Lake Powell water levels still at record lows

This year, the Washington County Water Conservancy District will enact special fees for those who are deemed "high water users." It will be $1 per 1,000 gallons over an allotment, Thompson said.

"We want people to see that they are among those higher users and you know we want them to reach out to the district and see if we can help them reduce their water usage because it is such a critical resource in southern Utah," she said.

In northern Utah, the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District has announced a series of new restrictions. Reservoirs remain low with enough supply currently to cover drinking water demands and a little outdoor use, said district CEO Scott Paxman. Outdoor water use will be cut by 60%. Agriculture water use gets cut by 40%.

This year, the district will also require a 10% cut on indoor water use. It's the first time it's ever happened, said Paxman.

"Whether it’s shutting the water off when brushing their teeth or not running the dish washer quite so often, or whatever, it wouldn’t take much to reduce your consumption by 10%," he said in an interview Monday with FOX 13 News.

The Weber Basin Water Conservancy District serves water users in Davis, Weber, Morgan, Summit, and Box Elder counties. It is also delaying outdoor water service until mid-May and cutting it off in mid-September; pushing for only weekly lawn watering; and continuing to prohibit new landscaping because it hogs so much water.

The district will also continue it's "three strikes you're out" rule where excessive water users get a series of fines before their secondary water supply is shut off if nothing changes.

In last summer's drought conditions, Utahns voluntarily conserved water by big numbers. Hasenyager said she believed people could do it again.

"I think the most critical thing people can do right now is wait to water," she said.

This year, the legislature also approved $5 million in incentives to get people to ditch non-functional and non-essential turf in yards, starting with the parking strips. Utah is the first in the nation to implement a statewide "flip your strip" program. Already, water districts have been approached by people willing to ditch their lawns for drought-friendly landscaping.

"We’ve got many cities involved in 'Flip your Strip' that we’ll be helping to fund," Paxman said.