SALT LAKE CITY – The drought situation in Utah has improved slightly, Gov. Spencer Cox said.
Recent monsoons have improved soil moisture, which means any snow that falls this winter is more likely to go into reservoirs, the governor told reporters at his monthly press conference on PBS.
In addition, the Utahns have stepped up and conserved billions of gallons of water over the summer, reducing the need for water rationing next year.
“If we have drought conditions that continue next year, we will have potable water available,” the governor said.
Long-term forecast warns Utah drought could extend into next year. The Utah Department of Natural Resources told FOX 13 it has recommended extending the state of emergency in the event of a drought.
But Governor Cox also said changes in water policy would come to deal with drought and increased demand on Utah due to growth. He told reporters that more needed to be done to protect the Great Salt Lake.
The governor said he recently asked towns and cities in Utah to review their ordinances to see what can be done to conserve water.
“We need every city to go back and look at their policies in the books. It’s one thing not to demand a landscape of xeriscapage or low water use, it’s another to make them illegal.” said Governor Cox. “And we have a lot of communities where it’s actually illegal not to put grass, not to have water-friendly landscaping, which is crazy to me.”
Some communities, like St. George, have made revisions to their ordinances and have actively removed lush green and lush lawn areas on public property because they hog so much water. Golf courses in the resort community have also been reduced.
The governor said the state is also seeking incentives for farmers and ranches to encourage them to plant water-efficient crops and obtain better technologies that use less water. Utah will also be tapping new reservoirs and aquifers to plan for future growth.
Governor Cox said he still supports the Lake Powell Pipeline Project, a controversial plan to expand access to water in southwest Utah. However, the governor acknowledged that discussions have yet to take place over projects like this and how much the state is receiving from the Colorado River.