Washington County: Infrastructure will remedy possible drought in southwest Utah

Dec 20, 2023, 6:56 PM | Updated: 7:04 pm

ST. GEORGE — No matter how beautiful the mountains are near St. George this time of year, there’s one thing Zach Renstrom knows people might start asking about.

“No question about it, you’ll have drinking water here in Washington County,” he said.

Renstrom is the general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy and notices the lack of snow in the mountains right now too. The latest snow water equivalent map has the southwestern part of Utah already in the red category, meaning the area is below its previous average.

“We live in the desert so we’re used to it,” Renstrom said. “Where one year we will go from flooding to the next year an extreme drought.”

It’s still early in the winter season though, and last season’s great snowpack keeps him from being too nervous.

“That is the one positive thing right now is our reservoir storage is very, very high still and a lot of our reservoirs are at 100%,” Renstrom said. However, water conservation is still important in the area, even when there is plenty of it.

“One of the things my profession worries about — in a big water year, people can actually become complacent,” said Doug Bennett, the conservation manager with Washington County Water Conservancy.

Bennett said last year Washington County saved 45 million gallons of water thanks to a lawn rebate program that replaced 1 million square feet of grass with more desert-friendly landscaping. The program helped the Virgin River fill reservoirs like Gunlock, Sand Hollow, and Quail Creek.

“All these reservoirs, all this infrastructure, the recycled water programming; conservation plays a critical role in our future water supply here,” Bennett said.

Therefore, even though the lack of mountain snow at this point in the season isn’t ideal, water managers aren’t overly concerned right now.

“It’s because of the infrastructure that was built recently — or actually sometimes 50 years ago or even a hundred years ago,” Renstrom said. “We are still utilizing that infrastructure.”

As part of continued infrastructure, a new reservoir is currently being built in the Toquerville area. Renstrom said there are also plans to construct four more reservoirs in the area.

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Washington County: Infrastructure will remedy possible drought in southwest Utah