Thirsty? Utah's water future will be mapped by input in upcoming meetings

Published: Sunday, July 7 2013 10:42 a.m. MDT

It's a huge effort every year to stamp out the problem, said Jordan Nielson, the state's aquatic species coordinator with the Division of Wildlife Resources, but the costly consequences of doing nothing loom all too large.

"If it were to get into water delivery systems, it could cost $15 (million) to $16 million," Nielson said, "and that could be a fraction of what the ultimate cost could be."

Conservation, in the sense of saving water by reducing use, is gaining traction among household users and the agricultural community, but much more is left to be done.

Herbert has set a goal to shave consumption by 25 percent by 2025, but critics such as the Utah Rivers Council point to neighboring states that have loftier goals, such as 40 percent, and charge that Utah is lagging behind.

Water conservation districts continue to preach water-wise landscaping by diminishing turf space and using plants that require less water. Since close to 85 percent of Utah's water resources are consumed by the agricultural community, emphasis is being directed to implement new technologies to become more efficient in farming practices.

Still, people need to understand agricultural water use is intensive, said Sterling Brown, vice president of public policy for the Utah Farm Bureau.

"We obviously live in a state where water is a precious commodity," Brown said, "but in general, the public forgets the enormous amount of water it takes to produce our food and fiber."

One watermelon takes 100 gallons of water to produce. A loaf of bread requires 150 gallons.

"Our reliability on a safe, protected quality water source has a direct link to the cost of food, and it does not get much more important than that," he said. "We must remember that food and water certainly tops the list in our standard of living and our quality of life."

Listening sessions

The Utah Farm Bureau, like other groups throughout the state, is urging its membership to turn out to the listening sessions to lend their voice to recommendations that will be presented Oct. 30.

"These are contentious issues that are not likely to be resolved anytime soon," Erickson said. "The summit will not solve everything in October. But the sooner we begin to have conversations that start from a similar baseline, the better."

The governor's public meetings on water issues will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on the following dates and locations:

July 11 — Layton City Council chambers, 437 N. Wasatch Drive, Layton

July 16 — Price City Hall, Room 207, 185 E. Main, Price

July 18 — Provo High School auditorium, 1125 N. University Ave., Provo

July 25 — Dixie State University Dunford Auditorium, 225 S. 700 East, St. George

Aug. 6 — Vernal City Community Room, 447 E. Main, Vernal

Aug. 13 — Utah Department of Natural Resources auditorium, 1594 W. North Temple, Salt Lake City.

Aug. 15 — Mount Logan Middle School, 875 N. 200 East, Logan.

Email: amyjoi@deseretnews.com

Twitter: amyjoi16

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