By Mayor Carmen R. Freeman
When Jim Bridger, a well-known frontiersman, met with Brigham Young at Fort Bridger, Wyoming in 1847, his observation and opinion of their ultimate destination, the Great Basin, was concerning and disheartening. Due to the alkaline soil, desert-like climate and lack of water, Jim Bridger was able to confidently declare that crops would not grow in that region and that he would pay a thousand dollars for a ripened ear of corn in the Salt Lake Valley (Manuscript History of Brigham Young 1846–47, ed. Eldon J. Watson (published privately, Salt Lake City, 1979), 28 June 1847, p. 561).
Despite Jim Bridger’s disparaging appraisal of the Great Basin, Brigham Young and those he led pressed forward, undeterred in their faith and commitment to find a home free from tyranny and oppression. Upon their arrival, despite the unfavorable and untamed landscape that lay before them, they immediately went to work. Wisely utilizing the water resources allotted them, they constructed canals and ditches to divert this precious resource and enable them to grow crops, develop grazing pastures and truly make this valley “blossom as the rose.”
Although Jim Bridger’s assessment of this region was inaccurate and shortsighted with respect to one’s ability to settle here, harvest crops and make a living, one fact remains in his appraisal – we do live in a desert and water is in short supply.
Today, as it was to those who first settled this region, water is a precious resource which is necessary for continued growth and development. This declaration was reaffirmed by Governor Herbert recently when considering future growth projections for the state. He charged those who oversee our water usage to take the necessary measures to ensure that our economic and population growth is not limited or inhibited by our available water.
This task of securing water for our future growth will be very challenging as we consider population models through 2050. It has been estimated that in the next 35 years there will be one million to two-and-a-half million new Utahns. This fact, coupled by our irregular and unpredictable rain and snow seasons, points to a rather bleak and daunting task to ensure available water resources for everyone.
So what can we do?
Given the fact that despite our recent rainfall our region is still 35% of normal, clearly points to the need to take a proactive approach in conservation measures that will ensure the long-range stability of our water needs. Let me share a few suggestions each of us may wish to consider:
Plant drought resistant lawns, shrubs and plants
Use Xeriscaping gardens to decorate your yard
Reduce the frequency of outdoor watering
Use drip systems for shrubs, trees and garden plants
Take shorter showers
Repair leaking faucets, pipes and toilets
Run your dishwashers and washing machines with full loads
Turn the faucet off after wetting your toothbrush
Use a broom instead of a hose to clean driveways and sidewalks
Keep a bottle of drinking water in the fridge
Although these suggestions will be inconvenient and challenging and perhaps appear rather insignificant, they will contribute greatly in our pursuit to preserve this precious resource.