Irrigation season tips as drought continuesMay 27, 2022 11:00AM ● By Tom Haraldsen
(Editor’s Note—This is one of our continuing series of stories as part of our Davis Journal Water Watchers campaign)
Despite the recent small rainstorms, Utah’s dire water situation remains relatively unchanged. The state is in either a severe or extreme drought. The U.S. Drought Monitor reports that 99 percent of the state is in the second and third-worst categories. The state’s reservoir levels are 10 percent lower than they were at this time last year.
Utah’s Division of Water Resources has an online Weekly Lawn Watering Guide to give tips on when and how long to start watering lawns and gardens. It’s updated every Friday at conservewater.utah.gov and breaks down suggested watering times and durations for every county.
“The guide takes extensive data based on weather patterns and evapotranspiration rates and simplifies it into how many days per week to water grass based on conditions in each county,” said Shelby Ericksen, the division’s conservation coordinator. “Keep in mind these are general county recommendations, and people need to monitor their landscape and make adjustments as needed.”
Most cities along the Wasatch Front have passed ordinances permitting watering only one day per week. Along with those ordinances are a series of penalties for violators, as secondary water sources remain very slim entering the hottest months of the year.
“Especially in the springtime, the guidelines vary weekly depending on what Mother Nature has in store, so we encourage people to check each week and make adjustments as needed,” said Ericksen. “Now is also a great time to test sprinkler systems and make repairs to ensure they are working efficiently.”
If you have a smart irrigation controller, make sure it’s connected to Wi-Fi and receiving local weather data. If you don’t have a smart controller, you can visit utahwatersavers.com to find out how to qualify for money-saving rebates. If you have a programmable controller, set it to deliver the number of waterings needed for your area, or switch it to the manual setting and turn on your sprinklers as needed. Remember that even though it’s getting warmer, any rain we receive can decrease the number of times you should water.
The drought conditions add to the state’s concerns over wildfires, and local firefighters are gearing up for that potential, as outlined in a cover story in last week’s Davis Journal. Brian Steed, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources, said with tinder dry and forecasts for the next two months “hotter and drier than previous years, we need people to continue to conserve to stretch our limited water supply and reduce the risk of human-caused wildfires.”
While the watering guidelines are county-wide, individual landscapes can also have different soils and microclimates that may require adjustments to the posted watering schedule. Microclimates are caused by local differences in the amount of moisture, sun, shade, air movement and heat in your area.
“Because Utah is one of the driest states in the country, it’s important that we use water efficiently. The average yard uses about 3,000 gallons of water for each watering, so eliminating one watering yields significant savings,” Ericksen said. “Proper watering also helps avoid problems with pests and disease and reduces costs associated with overwatering, saving time and money.”
Weber Basin Water Conservancy District has received very little new storage during the last two years and is expected to receive very little again this year. To mitigate the effects of the drought on their storage reservoirs, they have reduced the amount of water they intend to deliver to contract holders this year. They are also purchasing 5,000 acre-feet of Echo shares from users on the Provo River and about 14,000 acre-feet from Deer Creek water users. The delivery of this water into Weber Basin’s reservoirs will be accomplished by modifying the operation of the Weber-Provo Canal.
Twenty-two of Utah’s largest 45 reservoirs are below 55% of available capacity. Overall statewide storage is 60% of capacity. This time last year, reservoirs were about 67% of capacity. Of the 96 measured streams, 56 are flowing below normal despite spring runoff. Five streams are flowing at record low conditions. Due to low snowpack, streamflows are expected to be lower than normal. Current drought conditions have created drier fuels which in turn increase the chance of a wildfire starts. As of May 12, there have been 97 wildfires in the state of Utah that have burned approximately 256 acres. Out of the 97 wildfires, this year 88 of them have been human-caused. λ