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Utah Keeps Watch As Calif. Implements Tough Water Restrictions

USU Extension
In 2013 Utah officials created a goal of reducing water consumption by 25 percent by 2025.

Through an executive order, California Gov. Jerry Brown announced far-reaching water restrictions for his state Wednesday, with the goal of cutting water use in farming, households, cemeteries and golf courses by 25 percent. While Utah’s water situation is less dire, state officials are thinking about how to manage water in a dryer West.

As a whole, the state of Utah has never issued any water restrictions, said Utah Division of Water Resources Basin Planning Chief Todd Stonely. But reducing water consumption has become a goal of top state officials, and is being implemented on the community level through things like restricting when and for how long an individual can water their yard.

“The state has set a goal, in fact Gov. Gary Herbert has articulated this in his State of the State address in 2013, to reduce per capita water use—water use within communities—by 25 percent by 2025,” Stonely said.

The state has been making good ground on this goal. Stonely said originally, a goal was set in the year 2000 to reduce water use by 25 percent by 2050. By 2013, when the governor moved that date up by 25 years, the state had already been able to cut use by 18 percent.

Stonely said cutting water use will only become more difficult if the state continues to face winters like the one we had this year.

“I think there’s still wiggle room, there’s still improvements to be made, so I don’t think we’ll have a problem reaching that goal, but going beyond that—if we try to do more and more—it will become more difficult because all of the easy stuff has been done and the law of diminishing returns kind of applies to water conservation also,” Stonely said.

While some communities are already planning their summer watering restrictions, others are waiting to see what the weather will be like. Despite the focus on community changes, Stonely said the state will be keeping an eye on how California implements its restrictions.

“Typically, what California experiences, Utah experiences a couple of decades later in terms of growth and demand, and changes that are required,” Stonely said. “We are tuned in to what is going on there and we can learn from them for sure.”

He said Utah will be entering this summer season with approximately the same amount of reservoir storage as we had going into last summer. Whether these levels can be maintained into next year will depend on how much precipitation the state gets this year.