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Rain Aside, Water Open Houses Probe Conservation Solutions

photo of storm
Brendan Waterman/Natural Resources Conservation Service
A climate-monitoring station at Santaquin Meadows with a backdrop of smoke from the Bald Mountain Fire. Drought has hit Utah statewide this year, setting the stage for a series of open houses on water conservation by the Utah Water Resource Division.

A series of water conservation open houses winds down next week on the heels of national weather data showing that Utah just ended its driest year recorded history.

The Utah Division of Water Resources wants to know what steps Utahns are willing to take to protect water resources. Smart irrigation timers, low-water landscaping, patching water leaks indoors and outside – they’re all options that are already available to residents of the second driest state in the nation.

Joshua Palmer, who oversees outreach at the Water Resources Division, said setting achievable and aggressive goals will require a clearer picture of the actions Utahns are willing to take to reduce Utah’s water consumption.

“We think Utahns are ready to take it to the next level,” said Palmer.

Gov. Gary Hebert has set a statewide goal of reducing water use by 25 percent by 2025. But water officials intend to review data from the open houses and an online survey, check those results against scientific data, then craft strategies for seven water “regions” around the state that have a local focus.

“Utahns can have an amazing quality of life while being more efficient and adjusting little things that can make a big difference to Utah’s water,” said Palmer. “In the end, we’re going to have to look at everything comprehensively and create a goal.”

Five open houses have taken place over the past two weeks. And the final two hearings are set for Hillcrest Junior High School in Murray on Monday and the city library in Logan on Tuesday. Both open houses are scheduled for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Palmer said around 1,800 people have already filled in the Division’s online survey about water conservation.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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