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NOTICE – I appreciate the recent executive actions of Governor Spencer Cox and his request for prayers to deal with the increasingly severe drought conditions in Utah.
However, I respectfully believe that these actions have not yet matched the gravity of the situation and that they are not likely to adequately reduce water demand to keep pace with the decrease in supply. .
Utah can and should implement much more stringent measures to increase water conservation and harvesting. This is not rocket science. Utah is unfortunately far beyond other western states that have already successfully implemented many feasible and effective water conservation and harvesting methods.
Cox, along with Utah Water Resources Division Director Todd Adams, and other Utah officials, should learn from these recent successes elsewhere, putting the broader public interest ahead of them. narrow development interests and ensure that the costs and future impacts of water scarcity are shared equitably.
For example, they should support the following reasonable and achievable measures:
1. Gradually phase out inappropriate land subsidies for river basin districts. These subsidies undermine water conservation efforts because they remove the link between the price and the amount of water available. River basin districts should rely solely on revenues from the provision of water, ideally through the use of tiered tariffs that reward thrifty use and punish wastage. It is clearly unfair to use property taxes that have no correlation with water uses.
2. Count the use of secondary water and encourage greater filtration of it for potable purposes or use it for groundwater recharge. The secondary use of water is currently very expensive. This water is precious and its use must therefore be measured for better data collection and management. Utah’s watershed districts could make much better use of it, as other western communities have already done. For example, the watersheds of Arizona and California already use treated wastewater for groundwater recharge, and that same groundwater is then pumped to the surface for drinking uses.
3. Encourage municipalities to pass and enforce xeriscape ordinances (especially for new developments) and require river basin districts to implement xeriscape incentive programs to pay homeowners to convert lawns to native vegetation tolerant to the vegetation. drought. These xeriscape ordinances and incentive programs have already proven to be very effective in drastically reducing the demand for water in other Western communities.
4. Follow the recent Nevada example and demand the phase-out of all non-functioning lawns (those that are used only for ornamental purposes).
5. Continue funding programs to cover existing earthen agricultural water canals to reduce seepage losses and explore the installation of floating solar panels in canals and reservoirs to reduce evaporative losses.
6. Encourage alfalfa growers to consider substituting less water-intensive crops and converting rain-bird type water spray systems to drip irrigation systems which are much more water efficient.
7. Prohibit river basin districts from using public funds to hire private lobbyists to lobby the Utah legislature for costly and controversial water projects who are working to stop effective water conservation. water to reinforce the alleged need for such projects. Such lobbying should only be funded by private sources, such as developers, land speculators, engineering companies and construction companies who downplay conservation and promote expensive public water projects to benefit their interests. private. It is unfair for taxpayers to use their money to lobby for funding of public projects or to mount biased public relations campaigns to promote controversial water projects that have not even been objectively analyzed by the processes of environmental review required.
If Utah officials support and implement these measures, water conservation and harvesting will reap significant benefits. If they don’t, current water shortages due to a prolonged drought are likely to continue and worsen. These shortages present the growing risk of enormous social, economic and environmental costs and negative impacts.
Doing what is necessary will require great vision, courage, tenacity and leadership. Are Utah officials ready to rise to and overcome this enormous challenge? I suspect that the answer to this key question may be largely determined by the extent to which these officials are held accountable by the public for their actions or lack thereof.
Submitted by RICHARD SPOTTS, St. George.
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