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Northern Utah water reps say consumption down, conservation measures working

By Tim Vandenack - | Sep 22, 2022
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A sprinkler is photographed outside an Ogden home on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022.
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The exterior of the Pineview Water Systems office in Ogden, photographed Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022.
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A sprinkler is photographed outside an Ogden home on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022.
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A sprinkler is photographed outside an Ogden home on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022.

As fall gets out of the starting block, water officials say thank you for your yellow lawns — efforts to conserve water this summer by giving grass less water have paid off, though maybe at the price of lush green turf.

“Our customer base deserves a huge pat on the back,” said Jon Parry, an assistant general manager at Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, a key water supplier in Weber County and beyond. Weber Basin, which serves the West Haven area and parts of Washington Terrace, South Ogden and southern Ogden, plans to turn off the flow of secondary water — untreated water used on lawns — next Monday.

Weber Basin water deliveries along the Wasatch Front fell 22% from January through August compared to the same period last year, he said, which represents a reduction of about 15,000 acre feet, or nearly 5 billion gallons, from 70,000 acre feet to 55,000 acre feet. An acre foot represents the amount of water it takes to fill an area measuring an acre with a foot of water.

Benjamin Quick, general manager of Pineview Water Systems, another major water supplier in and around Weber County, offered a similar take. He didn’t provide precise numbers but said 33% more water was used between the start of the watering season through the end of August in 2019 than in the same period this year. The dip stems in part from restrictions on lawn watering this summer aimed at tempering water consumption, which have had the parallel effect of causing some grass to wither and languish.

“Our water users have by and large done a fantastic job of abiding by the restrictions,” Quick said. Pineview, which serves portions of South Ogden, Ogden, North Ogden, Pleasant View and Plain City, plans to turn off the flow of secondary water on Oct. 14.

Brady Herd, water utility manager for the Ogden Public Services Department, said metered water production from April to August fell 11% compared to the same period in 2021 and dipped 16% versus the cumulative average for 2020 and 2021. Though around 40% of Ogden residents get irrigation water from Pineview and, to a lesser extent Weber Basin, others rely on the metered water supplied by the city to feed their lawns.

What the savings mean in the broader scheme of water-conservation efforts across the state and hopes of bolstering water levels in the Great Salt Lake — fed by many of the same water flows used for lawn watering — remains to be seen. Much of Utah remains in “extreme” drought conditions, though most of Weber and Davis counties are in “severe” drought conditions.

What’s more, water levels in the state’s reservoirs, including Pineview Reservoir, are still well below capacity even if many used less water on their lawns. Pineview was at 35% capacity as of Wednesday, according to data on the Weber Basin website, while Causey, Lost Creek and Echo reservoirs, also in the area, were at 29%, 40% and 48% capacity, respectively.

Quick and Parry, though, lauded what they see as the public’s recognition of the importance of scaling back on their lawn watering. Restrictions implemented by the water suppliers as well as some cities, including Ogden, limited lawn watering over the summer for many to once or twice a week and for only 20 to 40 minutes at a time.

Most of the water savings stems from the later-than-normal date last spring when secondary-water supplies were turned on, Parry said.

The balance “can be attributed to our water users making water conservation-minded decisions related to their water use,” he went on. He noted changes by some to landscapes that require less water and participation in Weber Basin’s Flip Your Strip program, which encourages removal of grassy lawn strips.

More broadly, Quick said he thinks the restrictions on lawn watering in effect this past summer have helped shift attitudes. “I think more people are aware that their lawn does not require as much water as they may have once believed,” he said.

Indeed, Parry reported few cases of customers disregarding watering restrictions. Weber Basin only had to issue 40 to 60 citations to users who violated the rules out of a customer base of around 23,000.

In Ogden, the city issued over 140 water violation notices or warnings, with fines to residents resulting in 16 of those cases, Herd said.

What’s in store for next year in terms of lawn watering rules remains to be seen, dependent in large part on the sort of snowfall the mountains receive over the coming winter.


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