Utah’s weather is a trickster, imposing the dire circumstances of drought that lasted 20 years and then showing up in a flourish to unveil promise with this season’s record snowpack.

The fickle nature of how much water we get and when is a recipe for confusion — flooding and landslides that are upending homes and destroying roadways. Repeated messages from water resource managers that we need to conserve every single drop.

Predicting what is going to happen next is like playing with a magic eight ball to many, but the state warns it is not a game at all when it comes to the one of the driest states in the nation.

A new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll found that 69% of Utah residents remained concerned about drought, while 31% are not that concerned.

Dan Jones & Associates conducted the survey of 798 registered Utah voters May 22 to June 1. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.46 percentage points.

The poll also showed that 65% of those surveyed are less concerned over the drought given the snowpack this season, with 21% who remain unchanged in their opinion and 13% who are still concerned.

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The results of the polling prompt warnings from those in the water world looking out for the finite resource in Utah.

“One good year does not erase multiple years of drought. And in Utah, you know, we’re either in drought or we’re preparing for the next one. So we really need to not backslide into water wasting habits,” said Kim Wells, communications director for the Utah Department of Natural Resources.

The misery of drought

Building a house takes time. Finding the lot. Figuring out the design. Construction materials. The waiting. Yet, with just a little planning and the right explosives, that building can implode and turn to dust.

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That is what a drought does. It upends years of caretaking, years of watershed restoration and years of reservoir storage.

Laura Haskell, drought coordinator for the Utah Division of Water Resources, tells a sad tale of what happens when an ecosystem suffers the real effect of drought.

In one area of the state in 2020, not a single fawn survived. The deer herd was decimated, she said.

“These herds have been challenged and been stressed,” she said. “It’s going to take awhile because they don’t have managed water like people.”

Entire landscapes remain stressed, she added, and it is important to continue to conserve water.

The water bank

Haskell pointed to the dwindling water reservoir levels over the past couple years and how that was the only way to keep, in some circumstances, water flowing to the taps because people conserved.

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The snowpack doesn’t mean it is a free-for-all with watering. It does not mean people should change their minds about landscaping choices.

The state offers many resources on how to make the change from sod to something more practical for this fickle climate with Save the Flow.

“This is a year of opportunity to build up drought resiliency and make some long-term changes that are going to help us to be better able to deal with the next drought we have. So let’s make some changes, so we’re ready for the next drought,” Haskell said.