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The City Journals

City officials hope new water metering program motivates more conservation

Nov 04, 2019 03:15PM ● By Susan Palmer

The South Jordan open canal. (Susan Palmer/City Journals)

Susan Palmer | [email protected]

In about 1893, four canal companies began construction on four open canals that span the west side of the Salt Lake Valley west of the Jordan River.  

These canals supplied untreated water from Utah Lake to agricultural farms and ranches. The west side of the valley has now nearly totally changed to residential homes, but the canals still exist and are an integral part of the secondary water system for the west-side communities.  South Jordan has a comprehensive secondary water system that supplies about 25% of the irrigation water used by residential homes. Some of the secondary system is pumped, and other portions are gravity fed; however, there has not been any monitoring of these systems from the past until the present time and the water is only available typically from May to October. The water is untreated, and the quality of the water varies through the warmer seasons. SoJo owns about 5,771 water shares in these systems, which is about 15,944 acre-feet.

Two facts have made it prudent to conserve water from these secondary systems. First, Utah is the second--driest state in the United States. Second, SoJo is one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S.  

At the Oct. 1South Jordan City Council meeting, a resolution was proposed by Public Works Director Jason Rasmussen to apply for a Watersmart Grant provided by the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation. This grant would require matching funds to be supplied by SoJo and would be used to begin a metering system of the secondary water system.

Several SoJo Residents provided comments that reflected trepidation on what this metering of the water was for and why it was being done. Other communities in Utah have found that this action of allowing users to see the amount of water they are using conserves water.  Rasmussen said, “What they found is when residents can see the segments of water, they are using on their yards it causes them to use less. ,So that is that is our goal. They saved water in the range of 30% to 50%.”

This metering is not to create a billing of gallons or thousand gallons; this is just sharing how much these people are using on their yards. If they have this information of what they are using then hopefully they will make some adjustments and use less water. The information will be put on the SoJo water bill, and it compares the usage to close neighbors, average usage and last compares to efficient users. SoJo is hoping to save an estimate of 174 acre feet or about 157 million gallons.

The grant is for $300,000, and the city must match this with about $325,000. The money will be used to purchase meters for only the pressurized users about 443 residences. There is not sufficient technology available at present to monitor the gravity-fed systems, about 3,200 users; the pressure is too low. This metering will be explored until a system is identified at a later date and likely will require estimated funding of about $500,000.

The meters, if the grant is approved, will be installed through the season that the secondary water is not present and could operate by the spring of 2020. Plans for changing the billing of secondary water have not been identified and will require further study over some time.

The last piece of this application process is attaching the passing of the resolution. The resolution was passed by the South Jordan City Council Oct.1with a vote of 5-0.