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Beirdneau Peak stands at 8,914 feet above sea level and overlooks majestic Cache Valley. On July 3rd, I stood on the summit and looked over the broad checkerboard of greens, yellows and browns which mark the farms and cities below. At this point, it’s still mostly green, but things are definitely changing.Like me, those who frequent the hiking and biking trails around Cache Valley can testify that signs of the worst drought in decades are already evident. The foothills are more dry. The wildflowers are less abundant and have not bloomed as long as normal. The valley looks parched in places. In a normal water year, the mountain sides and trees would be lush green until late August with small mountain streams trickling through. This year, the streamlets are long dry, the trees are already fading, and the fire danger is extreme.I love the mix of residential areas, agricultural plots, and public lands that our community enjoys. I want to do my part to conserve water so that the public lands and agri-business endeavors stay healthy. And, let’s be honest, I also want my home garden and lawn to stay relatively green.
Striking a balance during a drought takes thought and requires prioritization. Hyde Park residents know that first hand, as they’ve willingly cut back culinary water use. Through it’s community mailings, North Logan has also encouraged citizens to water less frequently, recommending a maximum three times per week. The governor has gone further, asking residents of Northern Utah to water twice a week or less.The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website says that Cache County is in a state of “extreme drought,” which constitutes emergency responses. Since 60% of culinary water is used for outdoor watering, one of the biggest, best ways we can help offset the drought is to reduce outdoor water use.For me, that means putting rock around my new driveway instead of grass as I re-landscape the front of the house. With the help of the experts at Rudy’s and Anderson Seed, I’m selecting drought hardy shrubs and perennials for my landscape. My husband is installing a drip system instead of a sprinkler system. Truthfully though, it was just luck that my husband and I happened to be redoing our driveway and yard during this time. Water efficiency is at the forefront of our thinking now, but it hasn’t been for many years.Most people can’t change their landscaping due to the drought, especially since we hope the drought is temporary. That said, anything we can do to reduce water use for both short and long term is a good idea.During the drought, the DNR recommends that people prioritize watering trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals before grass. “Grass is tough,” the DNR site says. “It will enter dormancy in times of drought and bounce back.” The DNR affirms that grass can survive if watered twice a week even if it browns.Slowtheflow.org, the Utah water conservation website, offers water saving tips along with links. Following links can help residents get rebates, find waterwise plants for landscapes, find a schedule for lawn watering, and even get a trained irrigation evaluator to check on home watering needs for free (See the website or call 435-797-5529 for this service).Other water saving tips the site suggests are as follows: n Quickly fix leaks. Leaky pipes can waste thousands of gallons of water.
n More mulch. Piling organic mulch around your plants helps reduce evaporation.n Drip system. Using a drip watering system instead of sprinklers means less water waste and maximum effect.n Don’t overwater. More plants die from drowning than drying.n Weed out weeds! Pesky weeds syphon water from useful plants.n Don’t water when it’s windy. Winds over 5 mph increase evaporation.n Water in the cool hours. Watering before 10 am and after 6 pm helps minimize evaporation.n Adjust your mower. Higher grass shades the root system holds more moisture in the soil.n And my personal favorite, “Wash fido near flowers.” The site suggests that when washing pets or 4H livestock, find a spot on the lawn or garden in need of extra water. The gray water from pet washings will help the grass grow.Even more facts and tips can be found at drought.Utah.gov. The site offers free lawn signs to help encourage low water use with clever sayings like, “Yellow is the new Green.”On my bike ride this morning, I noticed Green Canyon looking a bit more like Yellow Canyon. It reminded me to do my part in helping to preserve water. Then the next time I get a chance to look down on Cache Valley, hopefully there will still be islands of green agriculture between the yellowing lawns. That’s a change of view I can be satisfied with.Kate E Anderson is a mother of five living in North Logan. She can be reached at [email protected]
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