Gov. Herbert rescinds 2018 emergency drought declaration

The emergency drought declaration of October 2018 has been rescinded due to statewide water resources received this year. (Graphic courtesy of Utah DNR)

On Monday, we were heartened to see Gov. Gary Herbert ending an emergency drought order that had been in effect for nearly a year. It’s amazing to see the tremendous difference between a low water year, like last year, and a year with above-average precipitation. It was remarkable to see so much green on the foothills as spring heated up into summer. We’re especially thankful that this additional growth hasn’t turned into catastrophic fires, like those we experienced last year.

While the state drought map is now free of the dark reds and oranges that indicated severe to exceptional drought, we hope that Utahns will continue to keep in mind that water is still a scarce resource in this low-precipitation state. Even now, about half of the state is categorized as abnormally dry, while Utah’s southern areas are marked by moderate drought.

Although people are using their sprinklers less as the heat of summer has faded, this would be a great opportunity to evaluate water usage and plan ahead for next year. This recommendation applies to both residents and officials as the state will continue to swell with new residents and increasing demands on our water supply.

We encourage everyone to look at easy ways to use water wisely. We’re not talking about extreme measures like giving up meat — just some commonsense approaches that could help make a huge difference.

For example, the state Department of Water Resources has said that Utahns use twice as much water outside as is necessary. Considering that 60% of a typical Utah household’s water use is for outdoor purposes, we can see great water savings just by being smart when we turn on the lawn sprinklers.

When it comes to lawns, it’s important to avoid turning on sprinklers during the hottest hours of the day — the heat keeps a lot of the moisture from getting into the ground. Keeping the sprinklers off when the soil is moist is also sound advice. We don’t need to crank up the sprinklers when Mother Nature does a great job of watering our lawns for us.

Also, people may refer to larger cities as a concrete jungle, but that doesn’t mean that people need to water it. We always get a little sad seeing excess water runoff from lawns onto sidewalks into the gutters where it goes to waste.

We’re also at the time of year when lawns are going to start hibernating for the winter. Lawns don’t need a lot of water from now until next spring.

There are a ton more tips for inside and outside the house on the Slow the Flow website, http://slowtheflow.org. There’s also information on water wise plants and potential rebates.

The site also includes the very useful “Weekly Lawn Watering Guide” that recommends how often a lawn should be watered in different parts of the state. Even in the heat of the summer, officials don’t recommend watering more than three times a week.

Although the state isn’t currently in a drought emergency, one thing is virtually certain — we will find ourselves in a drought again. We obviously don’t know when it will be, but we know we can all take steps to minimize the drought’s effects when it comes upon us.

Most Utahns pride themselves on being self-sufficient and ready for disaster. While we most often associated disasters with immediate events like fires, floods or earthquakes, it behooves us to prepare for times when water is scarce.

This advice applies not only to homeowners, but to developers, farmers, businesses and public officials. If we plan wisely for the hundreds of thousands of people expected to come into the state over the next few decades, we can help ensure that no one goes thirsty when the next drought emergency comes upon us.