Public comment sought for new Water Resources Plan

Published 09-29-21

SALT LAKE CITY (Sept. 29, 2021) – The Utah Division of Water Resources is seeking public input on the new Water Resources Plan. This plan is the result of years of data gathering, modeling and other collaborative efforts to identify when and where water will be needed throughout the state. The comment period runs Sept. 29-Nov. 15, with a virtual open house scheduled for Oct. 20. 

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Water Resources “Blitzes” park strips to show Utahns how to save thousands of gallons

Published 09-21-21

SALT LAKE CITY (Sept. 20, 2021) – The Utah Division of Water Resources will convert four grassy park strips to lush but water-wise landscapes to launch “Flip Blitz,” a campaign that aims to raise awareness about how small landscape changes can make a big difference. The campaign kicks off Tuesday, Sept. 21 at 13218 S Herriman Rose Blvd, Herriman, Utah 84096 at 9 a.m.

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Director of Utah Division of Water Resources Appointed

Published 08-26-21

SALT LAKE CITY – Candice Hasenyager has been named director of the Utah Division of Water Resources. Hasenyager replaces Todd Adams who was appointed this week as deputy director for the Department of Natural Resources. Adams fills a vacancy created by Rory Reynolds who is retiring after 31 years with DNR. 

“Candice is a natural leader with a strong track record of water resource management. Her leadership will be critical in addressing Utah’s water challenges,” Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Brian Steed said. “She has helped lead the state through one of the worst droughts in history and will continue to look for innovative ways to stretch and best manage our water supply.”

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Gov. Cox announces conservation focus areas

Published 07-29-21

At a press conference July 29, Gov. Spencer Cox was joined by water districts and St. George Mayor Michele Randall to highlight water-saving efforts underway around the state and announce conservation program expansions. Although drought conditions are discouraging, many Utahns are taking water-saving actions at their homes, businesses, communities, and industries.

Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District was the first in the state to offer rebates for turf park strip conversions with the popular “Flip Your Strip” program. Today, Central Utah Water Conservancy District and Weber Basin Water Conservancy District also launched turf removal programs designed to incentivize homeowners to remove grass that doesn’t serve an active purpose. (Visit UtahWaterSavers.com to find out about programs and rebates in your area.)

The governor announced four areas of focus he’s looking to fast-track to further advance water conservation and water planning:

  • Statewide installation of secondary water meters 
    • About one-third of residential connections use secondary or untreated water. The majority of these connections are unmetered. And you can’t manage what you don’t measure. 
    • Areas that have installed secondary meters have seen a reduction in water use by about 20-30%. Installing secondary meters yields the biggest bang for the buck when you look at the amount of water saved compared to the cost of the meters. A number of cities in Utah County are fully metered (Spanish Fork, Saratoga Springs, Mapleton and Santaquin), and Weber Basin Water Conservancy District has installed over 11,000 connections. 
    • Over the last few years, legislation has been passed to require meters on new secondary connections, and $2 million has been appropriated in matching grant funds to offset the cost of the installation (in first and second class counties). 
    • This effort must be accelerated statewide. 
  • Integrated land use and water planning  
    • As the fastest growing state in the nation, how we grow and develop today will set our water use for decades to come. 
    • Land use planning is often undertaken independently of water planning efforts, even though the two can and should inform one another. 
    • Integrating these two processes and requiring water-efficient landscape ordinances from the beginning of any development proposal is cost-effective, compared to the expense of retrofitting existing development. 
    • We are enlisting the help of local officials in adopting water efficiency standards for new development.
  • Agricultural optimization  
    • The State is facing critical long-term reliable water supply issues. The agricultural sector accounts for about 75% of the state’s total water use. So agriculture and agricultural water use need to be part of any water planning discussion. 
    • Over the last few years approximately $7.3 million has been invested in agricultural optimization for research and projects.  
    • A continued investment in agricultural optimization will help the State evaluate ways to improve agricultural water use practices, create benefits for farmers, optimize water use, and protect water quantity and quality for all uses in the system. 
  • Statewide turf buyback program    
    • Outdoor water use makes up about 60% of our municipal and industrial water use. 
    • Turf buyback programs like “Flip Your Strip” program help incentivize people to replace thirsty grass with waterwise options. 
    • These types of programs are typically offered at the local level – we’re not aware of any state that offers such a program. We want to be the first, and we are working to expand this program statewide. 
    • We need to plant grass in areas where it’s actively used rather than using grass as the default groundcover that’s only walked on when it’s mowed. 
    • Implementing a statewide rebate program will show Utah is serious about conservation and leading the way. These types of programs are also being expanded on a local level.  

As evidenced by the Conservation Garden Park, waterwise landscaping can be beautiful and help stretch the water supply. It will take all of us – individuals, institutions, industries, communities, cities, businesses – working together to fight this drought and ensure drought resiliency into the future. 

For more information, contact Kim Wells | 801-803-0336

Great Salt Lake reaches historic low

Published 07-24-21

According to the USGS, the southern portion of the Great Salt Lake is at a new historic low, with average daily water levels dropping about an inch below the previous record set in 1963, according to U.S. Geological Survey information collected at the SaltAir gauge location.  

“Based on current trends and historical data, the USGS anticipates water levels may decline an additional foot over the next several months,” said USGS Utah Water Science Center data chief Ryan Rowland. “This information is critical in helping resource managers make informed decisions on Great Salt Lake resources. You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” 

Wind events can cause temporary changes in lake levels. Therefore, the USGS emphasizes that average daily values provide the most representative measurement. The USGS maintains a record of Great Salt Lake elevations dating back to 1847. 

“While the Great Salt Lake has been gradually declining for some time, current drought conditions have accelerated its fall to this new historic low,” said Utah Department of Natural Resources executive director Brian Steed. “We must find ways to balance Utah’s growth with maintaining a healthy lake. Ecological, environmental and economical balance can be found by working together as elected leaders, agencies, industry, stakeholders and citizens working together.”

Streamflow levels across the state are also being impacted by extreme drought conditions. Currently, 63% (77/122) of streamgages with at least 20 years of record are reporting below-normal flows.

Current extreme drought conditions, water levels, weather and flood forecasts are available via the USGS National Water Dashboard on your computer, smartphone or other mobile device. This tool provides critical information to decision-makers, emergency managers and the public during flood and drought events, informing decisions that can help protect lives and property.

Great Salt Lake Information

Contacts

USGS

Jennifer LaVista | 303-202-4764 | jlavista@usgs.gov

Division of Water Resources

Kim Wells | 801-803-0336 | kimwells@utah.gov

Great Salt Lake nears historic low

Published 07-03-21

Reports that the Great Salt Lake has dropped below its historic low elevation of 4,191.35 are premature. The Utah Division of Water Resources is following the lake’s elevation closely and expects it will drop below that point in the coming days.

Conditions like wind, inflow and evaporation can cause the lake’s elevation to fluctuate. Sometimes those swings are extreme. To account for this, the division evaluates daily averages rather than the instantaneous readings recorded every 15-minutes. Taking this approach provides a more accurate reading rather than a single snapshot in time.

This pending milestone is concerning. The value of the Great Salt Lake to the state of Utah is significant as it provides economic, environmental and ecological benefits. Utah is growing faster than any other state in the country, and water demand is at an all-time high. Coordination and cooperation are key to solving this unique challenge. It’s important that we maintain a unified front between policy leaders, industry, wildlife and all stakeholders to balance the state’s growth with the health of the lake.

More information

New “Drought Watering Guide” replaces traditional guide

Published 06-11-21

Extreme drought continues to plague the state, so the Utah Division of Water Resources has replaced its traditional lawn watering guide with an “Extreme Drought Watering Guide” to reflect drought actions. The “Drought Watering Guide” replaces the popular Weekly Lawn Watering Guide (we hope temporarily) and focuses on “survival watering.” While extreme drought conditions exist, the guide will focus on minimal watering to keep grass alive: two times a week in northern Utah and three times a week in southern Utah. 

With 60% of residential water use applied to outdoor landscapes, Utahns are asked to look for ways to reduce their use. Eliminating just one watering can save about 3,000 gallons for the average quarter-acre Utah yard. More drought actions and water-saving tips can be found at slowtheflow.org 

Using water efficiently is always the best practice and saves money. But during extreme drought, it’s critical to help stretch the water supply. 

Hall of Fame or Shame water use reporting tool

Published 06-09-21

Compliments? Or complaints? The Hall of Fame or Shame was created in 2017 in response to requests from the public for a reporting tool to shine the spotlight on waterwise behavior – as well as point out water waste. The fame option allows citizens to report their own or another’s great waterwise behavior, which we use to give kudos on our Facebook page and share good ideas others can learn from.

The Division forwards waste reports to the local water provider to make them aware of the issue. The goal of the program is to save water and raise awareness of actions that are wasteful and also efficient water use. How the complaint is handled varies from area to area, but is best handled on a local level. Complaints are not released to the general public.

Utah is in EXTREME DROUGHT. We don’t know how long this drought will last. That’s out of our control. But what is in our control is how we respond, and what we do as individuals, families, businesses, institutions and industries to reduce our use anywhere we can. Pointing fingers does nothing to save water. If you see water waste report it,  and we’ll forward it to the local water provider for follow-up action. Water saved today means we will have more tomorrow.

Gov. Cox announces third drought Executive Order, fireworks ban on state lands

Published 06-09-21

SALT LAKE CITY (June 8, 2021) – Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox issued another executive order further restricting water use at state facilities. He also announced a prohibition on fireworks for all state and unincorporated lands.

“All indicators show this could be the worst drought year on record,” Gov. Cox said. “Utah state government is leading the way by cutting back on water use at all state facilities, but all of us — from private businesses to local governments to individuals — need to conserve water now more than ever.” 

Cox announced Executive Order 2021-10, which requires lawn watering at some state facilities to be reduced to two days per week. A previous order allowed three days per week.

He also announced that the State Forester and the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands issued an order banning fireworks on all state and unincorporated private lands. This order is effective today. The same goes for SITLA lands: No fireworks will be allowed on SITLA lands this summer.

Cox was joined by Utah Department of Agriculture and Food Commissioner Craig Buttars, who described the effect the extreme drought is having on agribusiness, and Deputy Director for Division of Water Resources Candice Hasenyager, who discussed the impact on the state’s waterways. Also attending were Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, Jamie Barnes, interim director of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, and Jeff Rassmussen, director of the Division of Parks and Recreation.

Executive Order

Utah Colorado River Commissioner statement on Lake Powell elevation forecast

Published 05-20-21

The Bureau of Reclamation’s May 24-Month Study forecast of Lake Powell elevations, while not surprising, is certainly concerning for all water users in the Colorado River Basin. The Upper Colorado River Commission, which includes Utah along with Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico is working closely with the Bureau of Reclamation on a drought response plan that could adjust operations at Lake Powell and upstream reservoirs to keep Lake Powell from dropping below critical levels.  

Maintaining Lake Powell elevations at or above 3,525 feet helps to preserve hydropower production at Glen Canyon Dam. Drought response planning is a critical component of Colorado River management, including the operations at Lake Powell and Lake Mead. – Gene Shawcroft, Utah Colorado River Commissioner

For more information, read the Upper Colorado River Commission press release.