Williams: The Possible Outcomes of Utah’s Drought


By Brook Williams

The weather this winter has been eerily warm. It seems as though we’ve only had a couple decent snow storms since November, which is atypical, seeing as we usually have what seems like at least one snow storm a week during this time of year. For those sun bums out there like me, it has been an easy winter — or should I say extended fall. I love the warmer weather, but it definitely comes with some consequences come summer time that I think we all need to remember the next time we cheer for sunbathing in February.

Even though Utah is a dry state, Utah citizens have used water like it’s no big deal. It will be interesting to see how our legislation will react to this lack of H2O. Hopefully they make some proactive changes to our water usage in Utah so we can preserve what we have, because — who knows — maybe in the next few years water shortages will become the new norm.

Reflecting on the past, our legislature probably won’t do much to change the water regulations. Unfortunately, most of them likely enjoy their lush golf courses too much to make any drastic changes to the water conservation there. But if you ask me, golf course grass should be the first to go. A possible solution could be using artificial grass instead. But who knows, maybe politicians will opt for that “sacrifice.”

If we don’t get more precipitation and our reservoirs don’t fill up by this summer, you can expect your water bills to be higher. This winter’s snowfall is the lowest it’s been in 30 years or so. Without the much needed moisture for our dry state that comes from our usual snowfall, there could be some dramatic changes to the water-full lifestyles we are used to. Local farmers are already reaping the negative effects of the warmer weather and drought, which means produce prices could increase as well.

Something I could see drastically changing in the next few years is our landscaping methods. If the dearth of precipitation continues this way, everybody will be xeriscaping, which doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but you can expect everyone’s green lawns to disappear. Rather than natural green grass that we maintain with sprinklers, we will have to steer more towards an alternative such as synthetic grass, concrete, gravel, micro clover, Creeping Thyme and many other options. Many Utahns probably won’t be happy to have to default to more water conservative options to save their money.

It will be interesting and maybe fairly devastating to see how nature reacts to this drought (no, I’m not counting golf courses). If the weather keeps going in this direction, our mountains won’t be as lush and green as they have been the past few summers and slowly things will start to dry out. The lack of water will also effect the fish in the streams, if they dry up enough, which will affect the whole downstream food chain as well as our state’s fishing economy.

It seems important to me that we consider the possible realities following these warm winter months. This warm weather might not be worth it in the long run if we have to give up on things like reasonable water prices, beautiful mountains and soft lawns. Remember that the next time you’re excitedly replacing your snow pants and jackets with tank tops and shorts in February.