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'Slope to Sink': Resort, renowned skier and water conservationists announce partnership

SNOWBIRD — When professional skier Pep Fujas moved to Utah 14 years ago, he was drawn to the Beehive State for more than its snow-covered mountains.

"I love this area. … Proximity to an international airport, great community, livelihood, cost of living's low. It's really hard to leave," he told the Deseret News Tuesday.

However, Utah's population is expected to nearly double by 2065, according to research from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

With growth comes an ever-urgent need to conserve one of the state's most essential natural resources — water.

And this year, the snowpack level has been below average across the state, which has local water conservationists concerned.

"We're going to have these conditions as we move forward, from time to time. We're going to have wet periods, we're gonna have dry periods," said Bart Forsyth, assistant general manager for Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District.

"How are we going to provide a reliable, sustainable water supply moving forward?" Forsyth asked.

That was the question representatives from Snowbird Ski Resort and the Slow the Flow campaign addressed as they met on the slopes of the resort Tuesday to announce that they're teaming up.

Through their new water-saving partnership, "Slope to Sink," the groups are promoting water conservation throughout the Beehive State by providing "everyday" tips and tools that they hope all people, businesses and institutions can use.

For example, advice listed on the Slow the Flow website includes making sure dishwashers and washing machines are full before running them, upgrading toilets — newer models use less water — and landscaping with water-wise plants.

Forsyth suggests Utahns should think about their park strips and consider replacing turf grass with water-wise plants in drip irrigations systems. This could conserve between 5,000 and 8,000 gallons of water yearly per household, he said.

This year, the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District is even providing money back to its customers who take that measure on their properties, he added.

"If you can imagine if we had large-scale changes like that throughout the state of Utah, a tremendous amount of water can be saved," Forsyth said.

Most of the drinking water for the Salt Lake Valley comes from snowpack in the Wasatch Mountains, said Hilary Arens, director of sustainability and water resources for Snowbird.

Given the resort's location at the "top of the watershed," officials from Snowbird hope to help set an example for others in the Beehive State, Arens said.

The resort is now displaying conservation tips and water facts throughout the resort to help educate visitors about water conservation.

Snowbird has also cut its water consumption in half since the ’80s through infrastructure improvements and will continue to find new ways to conserve water, she added.

"Right now, we get to help dictate the outcome of our future water supply, and if we don't consciously find ways to save water year-round, unfortunately, our concerns over recreation, over tourism and having fun will turn into concerns of Utah's stability, our environment, jobs and tourism," Fujas said.