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Southwest Utah records its driest May in 127 years, water district says

Posted at 9:28 PM, Jun 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-29 23:28:49-04

ST. GEORGE, Utah  — The Washington County Water Conservancy District said May was one of its driest months in 127 years.

The district, which manages water for the booming southwestern Utah region, told FOX 13 News that the Cedar City and St. George area recorded the driest May with little to no precipitation going back to 1895.

"It's one of the lowest precipitations ever recorded," Zach Renstrom, the district's general manager, told FOX 13 News. "The rains just didn't come at all."

Reservoirs are still doing OK, though Sand Hollow and Quail Creek have dropped 18% in the past month. There is enough to ensure culinary water. However, the district stressed conservation as critical for residents to ensure an adequate drinking water supply.

"Our cities have really been active on water conservation. Our citizens have responded really, really well and positive to that. New development being built, those developments are being constructed in a way that’s water wise," Renstrom said. "And you’re going to see a lot more coming from the county in that regard."

Cities have enacted restrictions for residents on outdoor water use, banning it from 10am to 8pm each day. Other cities have cut back on water use at government facilities. Golf courses, which help to lure tourists to the region, have re-worked how they use water to use less, Renstrom said. Agriculture producers have had their irrigation cycles restricted.

"Sometimes they have to go weeks, almost longer than that before they can irrigate. On our culinary system, all our cities have water wasting ordinances in place," he said.

The environmental group Conserve Southwest Utah said conservation is critical and everyone must step up.

"We’re way overdue for building and implementing a water conservation culture. That’s the key," Ed Adronchek, the group's water policy director, told FOX 13 News on Wednesday.

The Washington County Water Conservancy District said it was also working to ensure future water supply by constructing new reservoirs. One, Renstrom said, will make better use of secondary water.

"We have several different projects to ensure drinking water for the future," he said.

Conserve Southwest Utah said it did not oppose some of the reservoir projects that act as storage for secondary water, but did have concerns about others. Some may have significant environmental impacts on Zion National Park and parts of southwestern Utah.

"You can see across the spectrum, there are good ones and there are bad ones," said Androchek.

Restrom said southern Utah's reservoirs this year may be faring better than some in northern Utah. But next year might be worrying if conditions continue.

"We feel comfortable about this year," he said. "Where we would see restrictions would be next summer."