Water Woes | Urban Living
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Water Woes

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Planning that annual trip to Lake Powell soon? How about just a quick trip from Salt Lake up to Echo Reservoir? These Utah bodies of water and many others are in crisis due to the extreme drought conditions, down to just 25-35% of capacity. Powell had to recently steal from Flaming Gorge just to keep enough water to spin the turbines that create electricity for places like Las Vegas. The forecast for water here is grim, and it's not looking good for skiers either, thanks to global warming.

We can all help save water, and it starts simply with being aware of our water use. Here's examples: shower—5 gallons/minute; bath—36 gallons/per use; brushing teeth (with water running)—1 gallon/minute; washing hands or face—1 gallon/minute; dishwasher—10 gallons/load; hand washing dishes—2 gallons/minute; laundry—40 gallons/load for older models, 27 gallons for newer models; flushing toilet—3 gallons/flush; watering the lawn—10 gallons/minute. Make yourself a list of what you do based on the uses stated above and see how much water you're using every 24 hours.

On top of evaluating your usage, check your faucets. The U.S. Geological Survey has a handy Drip Calculator that will show you how much water a leaky faucet wastes over time. Locally we're being asked to just water lawns twice a week. In Las Vegas, grass lawns have been outlawed. Planting drought-tolerant plants or putting in high-quality fake grass will drastically cut water use at your home.

Until recently, it was illegal to harvest rainwater in Utah. But as of 2010, all Utahns are allowed to collect 2,500 gallons of rainwater on their property in covered, above ground containers or in underground cisterns. Most water in the state is owned by the state of Utah. If you want to collect it in more than two containers smaller than 100 gallons each or in one container larger than 100 gallons, you must register with the Utah Division of Water Rights (a free and simple online form). You can then use that captured rain to irrigate your lawn or garden, supplement your drip irrigation system, water inside plants, wash your car or bike, wash your windows, wash out recyclable bottles and cans before putting them in your recycling bin, and use it to rinse off your artificial grass after your animals use it for a potty station.

Sadly, we don't have state laws that ban car washes from using drinking water, but many chains do recycle some of the water after each wash. However, we do have a site to report water abusers: www.water.utah.gov/fameorshame. You can use the site's survey platform to snitch on (shame) water wasters, and you don't have to leave your name. They won't publicly shame abusers but will seek them out to help mediate the waste. For those who are trying not to waste our water you can use the same site to report water savers (fame).