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Rural Utah airs its hopes to keep its water

Published on July 15, 2013 at 11:32AM

ust a small percentage of Utah’s population is in agriculture, but that sector of the economy controls about 80 percent of the state’s stressed water resources while the number of urban faucets continues growing.

And that scares people like David Pace, who considers the word saving a “misnomer” when applied to water. That’s because when farmers reduce water use, others will want to see the savings in a lake, Pace told a small crowd Tuesday night at the Sevier County Fairgrounds. Water conservation should be stepped up to supply urban growth, but so should dam building, he said.

About a dozen people, mostly from rural central Utah counties, stepped to the mic to share ideas with a team of water experts assembled by Gov. Gary Herbert. The group is touring the state for the next few weeks, hosting eight town-hall meetings to gather public input for a 50-year water strategy. Besides Richfield, another already took place in Layton.

State officials now say this infrastructure is not sufficient for meeting future needs, so planning, new projects and perhaps some sacrifices are in order. Many environmentalists, however, feel Utah can meet its water needs through smarter management of existing resources.