CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — Last summer, Cedar Valley was part of an area of the United States elevated to “exceptional drought” status for a lack of snowpack and rainfall. Despite a few storms that looked promising, the situation has not improved. Now in 2022, and experiencing its worst drought period in 500 years, Iron County and its surrounding regions are experiencing what scientists are calling a “megadrought.”
On April 21, Gov. Spencer J. Cox declared a state of emergency due to the dire drought conditions affecting the entire state. He urged all Utahns “to carefully consider their needs and reduce their water use.”
“In Iron County, this means we can no longer put off finding solutions for our water shortage,” said Paul Monroe, general manager of the Central Iron County Water Conservancy District. “For many years we have been using more water than is being replenished from our underground water supply, or aquifer, and by the time April rolled around, southwestern Utah’s snowpack on the mountain was at just 66% of normal, which has declined quickly since then.”
Since its formation in 1997, the Central Iron County Water Conservancy District has been working to create solutions through conserving, recharging, reusing and finding new sources of water. The Pine Valley Water Supply Project is currently in the environmental impact study process with the Bureau of Land Management, and the district recently took a group to Colorado to explore a similar water supply project.
Monroe said they’re working to make the project successful and to ensure the valley’s future. There is no single solution to the area’s water challenges, though.
In recent years, the district, with the help of local government agencies, has made aquifer recharge projects a high priority. Such projects are an opportunity to conserve thousands of acre-feet of water when available. In a drought year, that extra amount captured is a lower number, but the district is continually working to expand projects so that when there is water, it can be put to better use.
The district has helped convert more than 2,000 acres of agricultural irrigation systems to high-efficiency, low-elevation systems to conserve water and is partnering with the Southern Utah University Farm and Utah State University Extension on an irrigation and crop management trial to help optimize water supplies. It also provides residential conservation programs for the public.
“The district’s focus is always on how we can conserve and optimize what water we have, and we need your help,” Monroe said.
Here are some things you can do.
Second, identify a patch of lawn you can remove this summer. Only water and maintain lawns that are used and can be efficiently irrigated. Water-efficient plants can enhance curb appeal and save water when they replace lawn on park strips.
Third, do the simple things. Turn off the water when you brush your teeth or shave. Only run full loads in the washer and dishwasher. Don’t dump water down the drain if it can be used to water plants or for cleaning. Make sure your home is leak-free and repair dripping faucets or running toilets. For more ideas, visit CICWCD.org/conservation.
If everyone does their part, makes conservation a lifestyle and establishes patterns of using less water, it will add up to big savings. Each resident can create a mindset of mindful water use.
While conservation is crucial, the district continues to work on long-term solutions engaging state scientists and experts to help ensure the Cedar Valley will have water for the future.
“Conserving starts with me and you,” Monroe said. “Each community member can help make a difference when they water less.”
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