Utah is decades behind other western states in implementing water conservation measures because of the state’s lackluster goals and resistance to reducing water sales.
Conservation in name only
While other states have worked for decades to reduce water use, Utah has provided only lip service to water conservation—an advertising campaign in print, radio and TV. Although this is a good first step, this ad campaign is the only step Utah has taken for the last 15 years.
Other states have already proven that conservation not only preserves water—it also helps to enable growth. Some of the commonsense measures Utah could adopt from other states include:
- Eliminating tax subsidies that encourage waste
- Creating rebate programs
- Imposing watering restriction enforcement efforts
- Amending landscape ordinances
These policies would make a huge difference and establish a sustainable growth pattern for the state—if only Utah was willing to embrace conservation.
Setting a low bar
Unfortunately, Utah’s singular goal is to reduce water waste by 1% per year until 2025, with no conservation after that. This falls dramatically short of other Western States, which have reduced their water use while Utah’s water use increased. According to a 2015 audit on water planning, Utah is behind many other western communities in water conservation in terms of both deadlines and water use reduction targets. Page 29 of the audit states:
“The Southern Nevada Water Authority, which serves the Las Vegas region, has a goal to reduce water use to 199 (gallons per capita per day) by 2035. In contrast the communities in Southwestern Utah, which have a climate similar to that of Southern Nevada, have a goal to reduce water use to 292 gpcd by the year 2060.”
In 1998, the URC authored and passed the Water Conservation Plan Act in the Utah Legislature. As Utah’s first and only water conservation law, this act requires water suppliers to prepare plans describing how to save water by reducing demand. It was a good first step.
Some 17 years later, it remains the only step Utah has taken.
It is past time for Utah to get serious about water conservation. Even as Utah water salesmen claim Utah is running out of water, they have done precious little to conserve what we have. The simple truth: Utah doesn’t have a water crisis—we have a crisis of water management.
Learn more about the URC’s water conservation work: