Gov. Cox releases water conservation plan for Utah’s biggest users – farmers

Jul 27, 2022, 6:23 PM | Updated: Jul 28, 2022, 10:31 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Spencer Cox rolled out chapter three of his water conservation plan Wednesday which focused on water savings for Utah’s agriculture industry.

It’s a key part of the plan because agriculture is credited with about 70% of Utah’s water usage.

Part of the governor’s plan is to cut back on how much water is lost through evaporation.

That means farmers need to make some big upgrades.

“I think the most important thing we need to focus on in the state of Utah is we need to protect our agriculture industry,” said Rob Gibson, president of the Utah Farm Bureau.

Rob Gibson, president of the Utah Farm Bureau (KSL TV) Utah corn field (KSL TV)

He said while he is working to help implement the governor’s coordinated action plan for water, he’s concerned too many people have lost sight of how important agriculture is to all of us.

“We all want to have open agriculture, we want to have open space in our community right? And that’s going what agriculture provides for us. And every time I see a subdivision go in, we lose a piece of the history of the state of Utah,” Gibson added.

It’s a piece of the picture that’s slowly chipped away as new developments move in.

Gibson said many farmers are already using their water smarter.

About a third of his own farm is among the growing number using drip irrigation, but it takes an investment.

Cox said he is there to help.

“We just got an additional $70 million from the legislature that will go to agricultural optimization,” he said.

Gov. Cox dives deep into Utah’s water challenges, future and shrinking GSL

That money can be used on more effective irrigation and better nutrient management plans for the soil.

Cox’s plan also pushes for more use of public lands for grazing and relaxing so-called “use it or lose it” rules on water rights.

Gibson said, “I think it’s really important that we look at the science and utilize that science and technology to make sure that we move forward in the right direction.”

He said it’s important to consider that flood irrigation helps replenish the ecosystem and send water into the Great Salt Lake.

Drip irrigation may not make sense everywhere but Gibson is also looking into new ways to cut back on evaporation loss before the water gets to the farmers.

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Gov. Cox releases water conservation plan for Utah’s biggest users – farmers