Droughts, and lack of water could become new norm in Utah

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (News4Utah) – With every part of the Utah in drought and reservoirs noticeably lower, it’s forcing people to look at the states heavy water use. Climate change is only adding to the problem with wet winters not happening as often.

Drought years are nothing new in Utah, but according to News 4 Utah’s Chief Meteorologist Dan Pope they’re lasting longer. The years of wet cycle that normally follows hasn’t been happening since around 1998.

“The average dry cycle is more like 3 to 7 years,” said Pope. “So we have dry cycles more frequently and we have wet cycles. But when we miss those wet cycles we get into these deep bad droughts like we have now.”

After a dismal snow year the water issues are being easily noticed again.

Ari Bruening is the President and COO of Envisions Utah. The non partisan group looks at issues facing the state and gives different scenarios on how to tackle the issue. He notes water is one of the most important.

“When we ask Utahns what things they’re worried about when it comes to growth, water is at the top of the list,” said Bruening.

Envision Utah says we will need to build out our water infrastructure to hold more. Although unlike the projects built decades ago. The Federal Government likely won’t be funding the majority of the projects.

The main goal is for people to use less. Right now Utahns use 243 gallons of water a day per capita. If something isn’t done it could have a negative impact on the econmy.

“A lot of employers that we try to recruit actually use a lot of water, said Bruening. “Data centers use a lot of water for cooling for example. So water can be a constraint on economic growth. Especially if there’s a perception that we don’t have a plan in place to provide the water that we need.”

The group says projections show climate change could make more precipitation come down as rain instead of snow. The snowpack holds the majority of Utah’s water resources because it slowly melts, and supplies water throughout the summer.

A possible El Nino could help this winter, but it’s too early to tell how much. Chief Meteorologist Dan Pope notes this year’s snowfall will have to be far above average.

“Not 110 percent we need 120, or 125 percent We have a year like that and we’ll be okay next year. If we have an 80 percent year. We will have restrictions and the price of water will go up.”

Groups like the Jordan Water Conservancy District note that cutting back on water doesn’t mean bare or less beautiful yards. Simply using a drip system and not over watering a lawn can reduce water use by two-thirds. They list water saving tips on their website.

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