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A water conservation conversation

Mar 08, 2018 03:47PM ● Published by Mariden Williams

Many homeowners overwater their yards, and few realize it. (Conservation Garden Park)

Utah’s population continually grows, but its water supply does not. This is why the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District—one of Utah’s largest wholesale water providers, which serves a population of about 700,000 and 17 member agencies—has set a goal to reduce water usage 25 percent by the year 2025. This goal may eventually increase to 30 percent.  

“There’s not enough water to sustain the growth moving forward,” said Bart Forsyth, the assistant general manager of the JVWCD. “We’ve already achieved all the easy water conservation. We think that the way to get all the way down to 191 gallons per person per day in 2025, we’re going to have to do a lot more to make those reductions.” 

 Perhaps the greatest potential for water conservation lies in trimming down outdoor use. According to the JVWCD, about 60 percent of annual water usage goes toward outdoor purposes—mostly used for watering turf landscapes.

 “Most of the people we talk to are surprised when we ask, how much water do you think you use on your landscape per month,” said Matt Olsen, JVWCD’s communications manager. “Most of us don’t know. I think a lot of us would think, maybe a thousand gallons or something like that. Typically, on a quarter-acre yard, you’re seeing about 60,000 gallons used a month for landscape. It’s pretty shocking.”

There’s an easy way to cut down on that amount. 

“One of the best places to start is your park strip,” Olsen said. “They’re pretty useless.” JVWCD will comp you a dollar for every square foot of grass you remove from your parking strip, and not having to water it will save you even more money in the long run. “We estimate about $5,000-8,000 per year can be saved just by doing that.”

If you’re looking to go a little more in-depth, JVWCD has you covered there too.

“We have some landscaping experts that will come and do a free consultation, talk about your irrigation system and your landscape design and give you some recommendations on some of the things you can improve,” said Olsen. One common recommendation is to switch from a spray irrigation system to a more efficient drip system, which can be done fairly inexpensively.

About 30 percent of JVWCD’s water is used indoors, and most of that goes toward bathrooms.

“Toilets are probably our largest water-using fixture in a home,” Forsyth said with a laugh. “That’s especially in true in areas where we have older homes, and older homes are still using older toilets that have high flush volumes.” Homes built earlier than 1994 may be eligible for deals on more efficient toilets.

But according to Forsyth, one of the best ways to cut down water usage is to educate people about the amount of water they use. Some agencies along the Wasatch Front have begun providing reports to homeowners comparing the amount of water delivered to the home to what an expected efficient usage would be. This allows homeowners to really see how much they overwater. 

“The results have been staggering,” said Forsyth. “Just with the report, they’ve seen about a 35 to 40 percent reduction in water use in secondary water.”

The Riverton City Council is supportive of the JVWCD and its conservation efforts.

“We want to do what we can to help meet the goals of water conservation that we have set for the state,” said Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs. 

 “It’s much easier to do things now than when we’re in a dire need,” said Councilmember Brent Johnson, who represents Riverton on the JVWCD Board of Trustees. “So I would encourage all the residents to take advantage of the consultation that’s available. We’re almost there. We’re at about 17 percent, to our goal of reduction of 25 percent. We’ve got until 2025, and if we achieve that, everything’s going to be much better.” 

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