ST. GEORGE — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed an executive order Monday forbidding the irrigation of state facilities during the day while encouraging local governments to do the same.
The order was issued “in response to ongoing concerns about extremely dry conditions” that have come in the wake of a particularly dry winter across the state and Western United States overall.
The governor’s order restricts the watering of state facilities between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., and requires that sprinklers are shut off during rain storms and landscape watering systems are operating efficiently.
The executive order also encourages county and municipal government to adopt similar watering restrictions “on public landscaping, urges irrigation companies to delay the start of the irrigation season and asks all Utahns to reduce water use by taking shorter showers, converting turf to waterwise landscaping and replacing appliances with water-efficient models.”
According to the executive order, snowpack across Utah reached approximately 81% of normal and peaked 10 days early. Soil moisture has also been exceptionally low, which causes the soil to soak up a lot of water from melting snow. This adds to the lack of spring runoff that forecasts across Utah show at below 76% of the season average. Reservoir storage in Utah is also down 14% over the last year.
“Last year, Utah experienced one of the driest and hottest years on record and we anticipate another tough drought year ahead,” Cox said in a statement Monday. “State government is committed to doing its part to conserve water and we encourage all Utahns to use this most precious resource wisely and sparingly.”
Cox issued an emergency declaration in March due to persistent drought conditions. According to the current U.S. Drought Monitor conditions for the state, 100% of Utah continues to exist in a state of moderate drought while experiencing abnormally dry conditions.
Closer to home, cities like Santa Clara have already passed watering restrictions, which ask people not to water outdoors between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Water officials have previously stated that watering during the day when temperatures are high is wasteful as it can cause water to evaporate before it can benefit vegetation.
Local time-of-day water restrictions are being pushed by the Washington County Water Conservancy District. County water officials are asking for a consistent and united front on the matter so it is easy to promote and coordinate water conservation efforts within the county.
St. George officials has been in continuing discussions about water restrictions; though David Cordero, the city’s communications director, said Monday that the City Council recently passed watering restrictions as well.
The Washington County Commission is also considering passing time-of-day watering restrictions during its next meeting.
While time-of-day water restrictions are routinely passed by local governments as summer draws near, enforcement of these ordinances has typically been non-existent. City officials have said they believe educating the public on the need for water conservation is more persuasive than a potential fine.
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