News - Washington City Utah

Council’s Corner

We Live In A Desert

Washington County sits at the intersection of three major ecoregions, the Mojave Desert, Great Basin, and Colorado Plateau. Looking at the natural topography, it’s obvious we live in a desert. Mother Nature reminds us in other ways as well, such as the red sand that somehow finds its way into our shoes and the unique challenges we face with water. Early pioneer settlers, most from southern states, who were sent here to grow cotton often found themselves with too little or too much water. That is the cruel irony of this desert. Most of the time we have too little and have to work to access and conserve it, but when the snowpack in the mountains melts too fast, or when the monsoon rains come thundering in, the very water we rely on for life and livelihood often becomes a destructive force. We’ve faced these challenges in recent history and continually work to be prepared for future events. However, the current glaring reminder of our desert location has hit home by way of drought during 16 of the last 20 years, with the drought being most severe this year. This has to do in large part with factors associated with low snowpack, precipitation, and soil moisture, and their resulting effect on local reservoir levels. In May 2021 snowpack in Southern Utah was 18% compared to 120% last year, seasonal precipitation was 58% of average, soil moisture was 67% and reservoir storage dropped to 35% of capacity compared to 48% last year. Despite these unfavorable conditions, Washington City did not face a water shortage thanks to the city’s available water supplies and partnership with the Washington County Water Conservancy District. This year Washington City developed its remaining available water rights by drilling four additional wells, which are now valuable additions to our municipal system. Washington City provides about half of the water used in our city today, the balance is provided by the water district. Because all water currently used locally ultimately comes entirely from the Virgin River Basin, a limited water resource, conservation is essential. As elected officials, we work with city and water district staff to share and promote conservation best practices. Among other things, we’ve asked residents to irrigate less, avoid irrigating during the hot daytime hours and adopt more water-efficient landscapes. Those who live here have responded well. From June to August, Washington County residents have saved nearly 600 million gallons of water compared to 2020 use. That’s amazing! But we’re not done yet. Most water waste occurs in the Fall so we’re asking everyone to reduce their irrigation frequency by one more day a week and look for other ways to save. Some property owners may consider replacing non-functional grass areas with trees and shrubs. Visit the natural spring and conservation garden at The Boilers to find ideas on native plants that perform well in our climate. Let’s not forget, we live in a desert.

 –Kress Staheli, Washington City Council


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