April 12, 2022
Less than average winter snowpack and persistent drought conditions have combined to keep Salt Lake City at Stage 2 of its 5-stage Water Shortage Contingency Plan.
The City ended last summer at this stage of water shortage, having faced a record-setting statewide drought in 2021. As this year’s peak demand season begins, water customers are again asked to voluntarily meet a target reduction of 5 percent in daily water use. Municipal customers, such as public golf courses, parks, and City-owned buildings, will be required to take specific actions to reduce overall water use, such as adjustments in lawn watering times and frequency.
“We cannot wait until later in the season to be proactive about water conservation – we have to make changes today,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall. “Last year our residents and business owners were incredible partners in reducing water usage City- and valley-wide and I’m confident they’ll show up again this year to help conserve this precious resource.”
The Water Shortage Contingency Plan outlines five water shortage stages triggered by water supply levels, stream flows, and water demand. It also provides recommendations for actions within each stage aimed at reducing water demand to levels that reflect current supply and future water needs. Stage 2 is meant to augment current water supplies and save for prolonged shortages.
Laura Briefer, director of the Department of Salt Lake City Public Utilities (SLCDPU), is tasked with monitoring water conditions year-round and advising the Mayor and City Council on conservation policy and strategy. Starting peak demand season at Stage 2 is prudent and supports resiliency in storage, treatment, and distribution systems that provide water for more than 360,000 customers. SLCDPU provides water for all of Salt Lake City and the cities of Millcreek, Cottonwood Heights, parts of Holladay, Murray, Midvale, and some of unincorporated Salt Lake County.
“The studies and forecasts I’ve closely watched are trending toward a season of higher temperatures and lower precipitation,” Briefer said. “The entire state of Utah remains in severe or extreme drought. Soil moistures are slightly better than last year, but snowpack is below normal. As a result, all stream flow projections are below average.”
More than half of SLCDPU’s water supply comes from canyon streams in the nearby Wasatch Mountains. Many reservoirs statewide are currently below capacity, including Deer Creek at 84 percent capacity. Salt Lake City customers receive 30 to 40 percent of their water from storage in Deer Creek Reservoir.
In coming weeks, SLCDPU and City partners will share messaging to encourage water conservation among residential and commercial customers. People can make a difference with small behavioral changes, such as decreasing frequency of outdoor watering, planting water-wise landscapes, repairing indoor plumbing leaks, and taking shorter showers.
“Last year our customers really took the water shortage situation to heart. They conserved enough water equivalent to filling Mountain Dell Reservoir more than twice – more than 2 billion gallons. We hope to have similar support this year. Everyone can have an impact on water savings,” Briefer said.
More simple recommendations:
- Sign up for a free water check to determine efficient watering levels.
- Adjust sprinkler controllers to reflect the season and weather, including shutting off during rainstorms. Remember: “Rain on? Sprinklers off.”
- Check sprinkler systems for broken or misaligned spray heads.
- Check indoor faucets and fixtures for leaks and repair promptly.
- Take advantage of the City’s water-saving tips and landscape information.
- Enroll in conservation incentive programs available in our area.
- Salt Lake City Public Utilities Drought and Water Conservation Information: https://www.slc.gov/utilities/conservation/
- Slow the Flow: https://slowtheflow.org/
- Utah Water Savers: https://utahwatersavers.com/
- US National Weather Service/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Colorado Basin River Forecast Center: https://www.cbrfc.noaa.gov/
- USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Snow Survey and Water Supply: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/water/snowsurvey/
- Western Water Assessment Intermountain West Climate Dashboard: https://wwa.colorado.edu/resources/iwc_dashboard.html