SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's low snowfall this year didn't just impact winter recreation; creeks that supply a portion of water for over 360,000 Salt Lake City and County water customers are between one quarter to one half of the average this year.
These severe drought conditions led Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall to declare a "Stage 2" water shortage contingency response, which means government facilities will need to stay within strict watering budgets and outline plans for water conservation.
In March of this year, "Stage 1" was triggered but the actions required were purely voluntary. In addition to the steps taken by the government, the Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities (SLCPU) will continue to educate the public about water conservation efforts
“Our snowpack, stream flow, and reservoir storage are exceedingly low. Less precipitation means our soil moisture is also exceptionally low,” said SLCDPU Director Laura Briefer. “The U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates that most of Salt Lake County is in ‘exceptional drought’ and drought in our region is anticipated to be persistent through the coming months.”
Salt Lake City's goal is to save enough water now to prevent greater problems later in its Water Shortage Contingency Plan.
Five water shortage stages in the plan are triggered by supply levels, stream flows, and water demand; it also provides recommendations for actions within each stage aimed at reducing water demand to levels that reflect current supply and future water needs.
City departments and divisions will reduce outdoor watering and will test equipment for maximum watering efficiency as dry conditions continue.
Residents are encouraged to report broken sprinkler and irrigation systems they may see in city parks and on building grounds.
Due to extreme drought conditions in 90 percent of Utah, Governor Cox issued an Executive Order on March 17 declaring a state of emergency, and has continued to urge statewide conservation.
The last time Salt Lake City declared a Stage 2 response was in 2004, and a Stage 3 response was triggered later that summer. City parks and golf courses were required to cut water use by 15 percent, fund-raising car washes were prohibited, and city water fountains were shut off.
Ways Utahns can help conserve water include the following:
- Sign up for a free water check from Utah State University Extension to help determine efficient watering levels for lawns and landscapes.
- Adjust automatic sprinkler controllers to reflect the season and weather, including shutting off during rainstorms.
- Check sprinkler systems for broken or misaligned spray heads.
- Water lawns sparingly in evening and early morning only; lawns will typically go dormant in summer and reducing water will not kill it.
- Check indoor faucets and fixtures for leaks and repair promptly.
Find more helpful hints here.