Water Week

Here in Utah, we live in a desert. And yet Utah has typically had one of the highest water usage rates in the nation. This is quite simply unsustainable. Please don’t misunderstand. Many people assume environmental advocates use the term to mean “unhip” or “tacky.” I mean nothing so trivial. I mean literally unsustainable. In a region experiencing a booming population, the water resources will not continue to be available to maintain current usage rates. Projects to import water will only get more expensive and more controversial as neighboring states in the Southwest fight to accommodate their own growing populations. The time is approaching when it will become an impossible drain on our resources.

As good stewards of the resources of this planet, we should proceed to manage our water in a manner which will best preserve the quality and availability of our resources both for our contemporary brothers and sisters, and for future generations.

In recognition of this, a number of state governmental agencies, NGOs, and businesses have sponsored this week (May 6-11) as Water Week. Brian McInerney, Hydrologist for the National Weather Service, and Stephanie Duer, Water Conservation Coordinator for Salt Lake City, were interviewed on KCPW to introduce Water Week and to explain the issues surrounding this most precious of natural resources and how it relates to our situation here in Utah. Our landscaping in particular plays a critical role in our water consumption, and learning about more responsible landscaping and gardening (such as xeriscaping) can make a big difference.

Want to learn more about water use in Utah and what we can do? Check out some of these.

  • Utah Division of Water Services has some great suggestions and information.
  • Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities: water conservation (its great to hear that Salt Lake City has made great strides in reducing water use!).
  • The horticulture extension of Utah State University (my alma mater!) is a leader in the field within Utah.
  • For those living in Davis County or thereabouts, USU has provided a fantastic option for those interested in learning about better conservation. They established the Utah Botanical Center in Kaysville (just down the street from my home during my teens, as a matter of fact) which provides workshops, classes, and examples—including a display house built on green design principles and landscaped with waterwise and drought-tolerant flora. Go visit, tour the house and grounds, take a class, and see how beautiful careful water stewardship can be!
  • The Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District has information, classes, workshops, and a demonstration garden (Thanks Jennifer!)
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8 Responses to “Water Week”

  1. Allie Says:

    I’ve said before that you look familiar…must be from USU…

    I’ve been wanting to go visit the Utah Botanical Center for a long time- thanks for the reminder.

    A few years ago we replaced the “grass” (meaning weeds) in our backyard with drought tolerant grass. It takes much less water than the front lawn and always looks more green.

  2. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Glad to hear that you had some success with reducing your water use. As apartment dwellers, such things are still a dream for us. But we’re learning all we can so that we can really do it right when we finally get a chance!

  3. Cody Says:

    There are small things that even people who aren’t responsible for landscaping or gardening can do. When I shower, I don’t run the water until it warms up, but rather start wetting down my hair and skin immediately. Then I turn off the water to soap up and shampoo, and turn it back on again to rinse off. (The shower has an oxygenating showerhead that reduces water flow by forcing air into the stream. Toilets are also a major source of water waste, and water-efficient toilets are widely available and quite reasonably priced.) I also never let the tap run when I’m washing my hands or brushing my teeth. I’ve gotten so anal, actually, that I don’t even hold down the button on the drinking fountain between swallows. I might not be making an impressive difference in terms of actual quantities of water, but I think it’s important to do things that reinforce the habit of thinking about waste. Conservation is a mindset.

  4. george fisher Says:

    Architects need to change their mindset. We are building a new facility in NSL and we have told the A&E folks numerous times, ‘no grass, no sprinklers, just zeroscape for us’. Our plans have the sprinkers and grass anyway. It is frustrating and your point is well taken, we do need to change.

  5. george fisher Says:

    Sorry, for some reason my bog site was not linked properly to the earlier comment. Try again and see what happens…

  6. jennifer Says:

    Here’s another great link – the South Valley Water Conservancy District. you can see their website at http://www.slowtheflow.org/garden/garden.asp
    They have a fantastic demonstration garden (I have a friend who used to work there). Here at my house, we have a dry garden on the side of the driveway. We have tons of perennials that love the hot dry summers and cold wet winters. I hope to incorporate the rest of the front yard eventually!
    One gripe I have about Utah water mindset: My city recently added irrigation water to our neighborhood. We pay a flat monthly fee for this service regardless of how much or how little water we use. As a result, many of my neighbors water 2 or 3 times more than when they had to use culinary water for irrigation (it was metered).. I don’t think that unmetered irrigation water encourages conservation, rather it encourages wastefulness. People think that because they have to pay all year for the irrigation water that is only available in the summer, then they better get their year’s worth!!!!! It’s pretty discouraging.

  7. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Thanks for the suggestion, Jennifer. I’ll add it to the list. And yes, two of the big problems in Utah water use are that water prices are kept artificially low, which encourages consumption, and all too often communities arrange for that sort of irrigation system which encourages consumption because people don’t have to pay for the water they actually use.

    Don’t worry, George, my wife is working earnestly to solve the lack of environmentally-conscious architects! There is a growing movement among architects, landscape designers, and urban planners to be more green.

    When we live in a desert, should the phrase be “brown?” 😉

    Good to hear from you, Cody. And you’re right, conservation is a mindset. I was making a point about some of the bigger things that our communities and individuals can do, because those will make a much greater impact. But yes, it does help to try to establish all sorts of little habits and perspectives, like the sorts of little ways to reduce water use around the house.

    I have similar experiences with elevators. I go up and down the floors several times a day here at the library. And except when I’ve got a cart full of books, I have pretty much entirely given up on using the elevator. Every time I pass one, I think “how much electricity would being used for this short trip which I could do just as well with my own feet–and get the benefit of a little more exercise by doing so!” It just seems silly. Same with the water while brushing teeth, shaving, etc.

  8. cb Says:

    Derek and I agree! Enough said.

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