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Five-year drought cycle impacts Utah’s economy

By Sun Advocate

Utah’s five-year drought cycle is having a significant economic impact statewide.
In an attempt to alleviate the negative effects, Gov. Mike Leavitt urged Carbon County residents and all Utahns to continue using water resources wisely.
Utah is the only state in the country classified in the extreme drought category, pointed out Leavitt.
Recently, the governor issued a declaration of agricultural disaster due to extreme drought conditions throughout Utah. Forwarded to the United States Secretary of Agriculture, the declaration requests additional federal funding to assist the state’s agricultural industry.
“The drought we are experiencing is taking a series toll on our water supplies. Even though May has had a lot of precipitation, our snow pack is almost depleted and the ground is extremely dry,” explained Larry Anderson, resource director and conservation team member.
To date, Utah’s 29 counties have reported nearly $287 million in drought-related financial losses. Almost half of the 15,000 farms operating at locations across the state have suffered significant losses.
“This is a hard hit to the economy of rural Utah and causes a ripple down effect to the economy of the state as a whole,” noted Leavitt. “Conservation by small and large water users in rural and urban Utah is critical.”
“Utah’s continued population growth and multiple years of drought make it vital for everyone to implement water-wise practices,” continued Leavitt. “We can all do more to preserve this resource.”
A statewide public opinion survey determined that 85 percent of Utahns realize it is important to conserve. But the study found that water-wise education is still needed.
Survey respondents reported that they are watering land scapes more frequently than necessary. In addition, 94 percent admitted to having no idea how much water they put on lawns annually.
Nearly two-thirds of the Utahns contacted during the statewide poll admitted that they have not changed outdoor landscapes to save water.
Based on the survey findings, the conservation team has developed conservation tips that will be part of the slow the flow public information campaign.
The campaign includes television and radio public service announcements, collateral materials, community relations activities and media relations endeavors.
“We need to reduce per capita water use by at least 25 percent by 2050,” explained the governor. “We also need to change our watering habits so residents water less and for shorter periods of time and move from general awareness of the need to conserve water to an understanding of how to conserve.”
Leavitt recommends the following water-wise tips for Carbon County residents and Utahns to follow to ensure that the state will have an adequate supply of water now and in the future:
•Refrain from watering between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., and water less.
•Water only twice a week, even in the hottest weather. For south eastern Utah residents, this means 5/8 inch.
•Adopt structural changes.
Adoption of the residential structural changes includes the replacement of old appliances such as dishwashers, clothes washers, shower heads and toilets with water conserving models. The recommended changes also involves the implementation of water-wise outdoor landscaping techniques.
“I commend residents for their efforts. Already this year, we’ve saved thousands of acre feet of water,” commented Leavitt. “The water conservation team is doing a fantastic job promoting water conservation and managing the state’s water supply. We all just need to keep up the effort.”
For additional information regarding the state’s slow the flow campaign or for recommendations on how to conserve water, Carbon County residents may visit the governor’s Internet website.
The site may be accessed at www.conservewater.utah.gov.

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