Millions of residents of southern California are now limited to one day a week of outdoor irrigation, just like a huge chunk of northern Utah.

The restrictions in play are the result of the worst drought in the western United States in 12 centuries, the severity of which was reported in a scientific journal earlier this year.

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This is how bad it is getting: The Metropolitan Water District in California is a wholesale supplier of water with 26 member agencies representing 80 cities and communities.

CBS News reported that the district’s water delivery network supplied just 5% of the water local areas had requested. It is also prepared to levy a fine of $2,000 per acre-foot of water to those areas that fail to meet the state’s water savings goal. An acre-foot is enough water to cover a piece of land roughly the size of a football field water one foot deep.

In May, the city of Mesa, Arizona, declared a water shortage, and officials there are instituting severe water restrictions at their own facilities.

Salt Lake County is in a similar mode, shooting for water savings by asking parks and recreation leaders to cut back on water use as much as possible while still keeping ballfields and golf courses functional.

Plants are watered at a tree shop in Layton on Thursday, June 2, 2022. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Northern Utah vs. Southern California on timing: Water restrictions in Southern California took effect on Thursday. It was early April when the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District serving five counties announced its once-a-week watering restrictions for outdoors. It reduced the amount of water available in its delivering contracts, including a 10% cut for indoor use.

It also delayed the delivery date of secondary water by one month — from April 15 to May 15 — and will end the season a month earlier this summer.

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The mountain snowpack in that district is so low it prompted the district to negotiate the purchase of 14,000 acre-feet of water that would normally be delivered to the Central Utah Water Conservancy District.

The so-called “snow horse” is seen on a mountain east of Layton on June 3, 2002. | Ravell Call, Deseret News

The pioneer-era legacy of the snow horse: Shalise Marx, of Layton, said she became increasingly concerned over the last few years as the snow horse in the mountains above Layton and Kaysville kept disappearing earlier and earlier.

“I have heard the stories if the snow horse melts before June we are going to have a tough water year,” she said.

Pioneers used the snow horse as an indicator of what and when to plant and as a guide for whether the coming summer would be brutal for water supplies or beneficial.


After some investigation, Marx initiated a monthslong project to tear out sod on her park strip, put in drip irrigation and create a river of rock featuring more than a dozen ceramic fish.

“I have the regular kind of fish and then I have some zombie fish that are chasing the other fish. And they have fish guts that they’re holding and eyeballs hanging out of their heads and it is kind of fun.”

Liam Marx installs drip lines in his yard in Layton on Thursday, June 2, 2022. The ceramic fish, sculpted by his mother, Shalise Marx, is part of a xeriscaping project that the two are working on. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Marx, a ceramics teacher at Layton High School, created the fish as a demonstration project for her students as a way to teach sculpturing.

Now those fish are in her yard, replacing a lot of turf.

Her son, Liam, has been working on the project with her since March, with a great assist from the baseball and track teams from Layton High that pitched in to help.

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Marx said she took a couple of classes on xeriscaping at the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District and plunged into the project.

It’s taken time, a financial investment and some sweat — but she thinks it will be worth it and inspiring for others.

“In the end it’s going to save time in yard care, and it will save time and water for everybody,” she said. “I think mostly people should know that xeriscaping can be a beautiful artistic expression. And that it’s fun for the neighborhood to look at and hopefully when people see it, they will want to do it in their yards and it’ll kind of spread through the neighborhood. It will help reduce some of that water usage.”

Shalise Marx arranges ceramic fish while working on a xeriscaping project in her yard in Layton on Thursday, June 2, 2022. The fish will be swimming in a river of colored rocks once the project is completed. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News