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Gov. Spencer Cox Proposes ‘Aggressive Water Conservation Measures’ As Utah’s Extreme Drought Continues

A photo of Gov. Spencer Cox and other officials at a press conference.
Utah State Office of the Governor
Gov. Spencer Cox announces new policy proposals to amp up Utah’s water conservation efforts.

Nearly all of Utah is in an extreme drought.

During a press conference Thursday, Gov. Spencer Cox also said water conservancy districts have reported big savings in water usage across the state compared to past years.

But he said Utah needs to do even more to address its drought conditions.

“Our administration, the lieutenant governor and I, are committed to advancing more aggressive water conservation measures,” Cox said. “We're working with individual legislators right now and with legislative leadership to help make some of these changes in the upcoming session.”

One of those measures is statewide metering for secondary water.

“You can't manage what you can't measure,” he said. “Just by measuring it, [cities that have metering] see a reduction. So installing secondary meters yields the biggest bang for the buck.”

Another option is a statewide turf buyback program. That would incentivize people to swap out their lawns for more water-wise landscaping.

St. George Mayor Michele Randall said that’s something her city is already doing.

“This year alone, the city is removing nearly 500,000 square feet of grass from city-owned parks and other municipal buildings and facilities,” Randall said. “We're revising our irrigation practices and landscape design at city-owned golf courses to save more than 30 million gallons a year.”

Randall said she’s working with other mayors in Washington County to enact more stringent water ordinances.

She encouraged leaders across the state to follow suit.

“We're accountable to the voters in our local communities,” she said. “They rely on us to say, ‘Do we have enough water? All these developments that you're allowing [to] come in, do we have the water for that?’ So we're directly accountable to those voters and I think the municipalities can [enact water conservation policies] just fine if they choose to. And they need to choose to do that.”

Cox’s other proposals are incentivizing farmers to use more efficient water technology and local land-use planning that’s informed by water planning.

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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