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Ogden water shortage declaration comes amid efforts to incentivize water-wise landscaping

By Deborah Wilber - | May 6, 2022

Deborah Wilber, Standard-Examiner

A green lawn is visible outside a home in Ogden on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021.

OGDEN — A severe water shortage is now officially in effect due to drought conditions and diminishing reserves in reservoirs. Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell signed a declaration moving the city into phase two of the Water Shortage Management Plan following a unanimous vote by the City Council on Tuesday.

According to an Ogden City press release, snowpack is currently sitting at 65% of the median for this period of the year and Pineview Reservoir storage is at 52% of capacity, compared to 74% in 2020.

Guidelines effective immediately under the mayor’s declaration and the water shortage plan include no outdoor irrigation between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. with a limit of two days per week, 20 minutes per irrigation for pop-up sprays and 40 minutes for rotors.

In addition to Ogden residents being encouraged to reduce water use by at least 10%, commercial water customers are encouraged to implement a water management plan to reduce use by at least 15%.

City Councilman Richard Hyer said water-wise landscaping is becoming more and of a necessity. Hyer is a proponent of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District’s Flip Your Strip program, meant to remove turf from park strips — the piece of land between the curb and sidewalk — and create low-water alternatives.

As a Weber Basin customer, Ogden City did not meet certain requirements for the Flip your Strip program. Planning Commission Manager Greg Montgomery said the city recommended approval of various amendments to fall in line with the district’s requirements.

Ordinance changes are scheduled to go before the City Council for a vote on May 17.

Although current city ordinances allow residents to install water-wise landscaping, Montgomery said Ogden officials want to make it more of a requirement than a recommendation, such as using water smart controllers that adapt to weather conditions and setting a maximum area of turf grass.

Rather than creating its own incentive program, the city decided to tie in to Weber Basin’s program, per the council’s request, to offer a rebate of $3 per square foot, as well as creating more consistency throughout communities.

Weber Basin will reportedly rebate $1.25 per square foot to homeowners for converting park strip landscaping. Participants in the program must be a residential customer within the district’s service area.

While park strips must be fully landscaped with a living, well-maintained lawn at the time of the application, Weber Basin staff will consider drought water restrictions when assessing the health of the pre-project landscaping.

According to Weber Basin, park strips are one of the largest water wasters, typically requiring 7,000 to 10,000 gallons of water per year when occupied by grass.

“It’s really low-hanging fruit if we can incentivize residents to flip their strip,” Hyer said. “We can save a lot of water.”

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