A Water Festival Delivers a Timely Message in the Face of a Historic Dry Spell

Conserving water was priority at a popular Utah water festival as the area contended with severe and persistent drought conditions.

A Water Festival Delivers a Timely Message in the Face of a Historic Dry Spell

Activities at the Central Iron water festival included water balloon fights and a water slide converted to a foam slide.

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A Utah utility resumed its popular water festival in June 2021 after skipping a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic — with a special twist on water conservation. The festival returned at a time when the service area was seeing the worst drought in almost 125 years.

The festival events themselves were adjusted to reduce water usage. The fire department’s water slide became a foam slide; water balloon fights were replaced by other games and activities. “We knew it was important that we set a good example by making these modifications for the festival,” notes Jessica Staheli, public outreach and conservation manager.

The Central Iron County Water Conservancy District sponsors the event, now in its sixth year, with Southwest Plumbing Supply.

The drought has also led the district to ramp up education to involve residents in conserving water in their homes, as the community is growing while the regional water diminishes. The district, in Utah’s Southwest corner near the Great Basin Desert, provides water to about 1,300 homes in a 1,500-square-mile service area in Cedar Valley of Iron County. It is charged with conserving, developing and stabilizing the Cedar Valley aquifer, its water source.

Getting creative

The return of the water festival gave the district a chance to introduce attendees to its new regional drought information campaign, “Get to Know Your H2O,” and to engage the community in conserving water. The campaign asks residents to help in three ways:

-Watering landscapes only after dark

-Fixing leaks in the homes

-Shortening showers

A booth at the festival introduced the campaign, which was also promoted in newsletters, flyers, social media and news releases. The campaign includes short videos narrated by a professor about the urgency of the situation and how the community can help.

To further educate attendees, separate booths gave information on water conservation, water reuse and recharge, and the importing of water. Besides asking residents to conserve, the district set an example by modifying some festival activities.

Family fun

Truly a family affair, the festival draws good crowds every year, typically about 2,000 attendees of all ages. To help make it work, about 10 college students and youth from the community volunteer to support 10 district staff members. The event is held at the Main Street Park in Cedar City, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

In addition to the district’s tents, booths from festival sponsors and vendors included information and demonstrations on water-efficient products, irrigation and landscape equipment, consulting and professional services, and software and technology.

There were also food booths, including free hot dogs and water. There were plenty of games and activities for children, including a bouncy house, beach volleyball, treats and on-site music and giveaways from the local radio station.

Last year when the event was canceled, the district held a contest for kids, promoted through social media and the website. The children received a goody bag with toys including a squirt gun and other items as a reward for entering.

In 2021 the festival included a contest for attendees. People had to attend to qualify, and the prizes included a cooler and lawn games for families. “Feedback is always positive,” Staheli says. “Residents comment how much they enjoy the festival. A lot of people return every year and spread the word about how much fun it is for their children, and what they learn.”  


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