Nearly all of Utah is in severe drought and water managers don’t believe half full reservoirs will fill this year.
The irrigation season has been shortened, farmers in parts of northern Utah are taking extreme reductions in how much water they receive and even culinary water supplies face a shortfall.
April has been, for the most part, cooler with storms that have swept through the mountains delivering snow and some valley rain.
Still, people are turning on their sprinklers to liven up lawns.
“There are only five counties in the state where we have irrigation recommendations,” said Kim Wells, public information officer for the Utah Department of Natural Resources.
The state, through a special website, offers a weekly lawn watering guide to advise residents on when watering should happen, and to what extent.
Wells says the guide is derived from multiple data points, including soil conditions, temperatures and the weather forecast.
“The longer we can wait to water, the better off we will be and the longer we can stretch the water supply,” Wells said.
Some cities have posted lawn watering restrictions on their websites already. Layton has restricted lawn watering to once a week, a schedule based on the last digit of a person’s house number. Last year, Layton water users reduced consumption by 600 million gallons. Other cities have imposed similar restrictions.
North Salt Lake will consider in May a tiered rate structure for both its culinary and secondary watering systems.
“It will obviously be a little more painful for people who use a lot more water,” said Linda Horrocks, the city’s communication coordinator.
Horrocks said watering will be greatly reduced at city parks and the city-owned Eaglewood Golf Course, adding that vital areas that need water have been mapped out and others will not receive as much. Only 40% of the water typically available for outdoor use can be tapped this season.
Like other cities, Riverdale is prohibiting daytime watering and is asking residents to wait until May for outdoor irrigation.
In addition, the city will not open its splash pad and will likely refrain from planting any flowers or annuals this year at city-owned landscapes.
All these areas are served by the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, which announced extreme reductions earlier this month in the five counties it covers.
Wells stressed the importance of refraining from outdoor watering based on state guidance, noting that 60% of residential water use is used on landscaping.
She added that eliminating just one watering on an average quarter-acre residential lot in Utah avoids using 3,000 gallons of water — a significant amount.
Wells did note that residents should not be overly critical if they see some sprinklers on — such as by large institutions — because they could be recharging their systems or soaking in fertilizer.
The Utah Division of Water Resources has an active social media campaign that includes Facebook and Twitter — and a bit of humor — to educate people about the importance of conserving water resources.
Wells said while it may be tempting to indulge in outdoor watering on a day when temperatures hit the 70s, she said there needs to be several consecutive days for that to be necessary.
While temperatures were mild Tuesday, there is a chance of rain on Friday.