Record editorial: We have a role to play in combating drought |

Record editorial: We have a role to play in combating drought

As if the last year hasn’t been filled with enough upheaval, Summit County and the rest of Utah are staring down the barrel of another looming crisis.

Gov. Spencer Cox last month declared a state of emergency due to drought conditions after a winter that was never able to recover from a dry beginning. The situation in Summit County is representative of the statewide predicament: According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, most of the county is in “extreme drought” and the rest is in “severe drought.” The snowpack at a measuring station in Thaynes Canyon was 77% of average in early March.

It seems likely that state and local officials will mandate certain water conservation measures in the coming months, but Parkites should be preparing now to adjust their consumption habits in response to the drought.

One of the most significant — and easiest — ways we can save water this summer is to be content with lawns that are browner than normal. That goes especially for unoccupied second homes. Much in the same way it doesn’t make sense to heat an empty 8,000-square-foot home in the winter, there’s no use sprucing up a yard that isn’t being used.

It would also be an opportune time to consider a long-term improvement like xeriscaping because, though it’s impossible to say how long this particular drought will last, Utah’s water challenges aren’t going away. A sprawling, lush lawn has long been seen as a quintessential part of the American dream, a place to throw around a baseball and host family gatherings. But the reality is it’s a convenience we can do without, especially in dry times.

More troubling than the possibility of browning front yards, though, is what the drought means for the wildfire season. Park City emergency officials are already sounding the alarm, indicating in a recent report to the mayor and City Council that “conditions are likely to pose a high risk of wildfire throughout Summit County and surrounding areas” this summer.

Unlike other places in Utah and in the broader Intermountain West, Summit County has not experienced a catastrophic wildfire in modern times. That’s due to good fortune as much as anything, since we live in a wildland urban interface, where the threat of a devastating blaze is ever present. There’s no guarantee our streak of luck will continue this year, meaning residents should harden their homes and brush up on (or create) their emergency plans while city and county officials do the same for the community. Simply put, it’s impossible to be overprepared.

Hopefully this drought is short lived. A bountiful snowfall next winter could have us in a much better place this time next year. That’s hardly a foregone conclusion, though. And in any case, it would do nothing to address the short-term crisis we’re facing this summer.

For now, we have a responsibility to conserve water, be cognizant of the upcoming wildfire danger and play our part in helping Summit County and the state make it through this drought.

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