OGDEN — Ogden City is proposing a new, $1 million capital improvement measure that would replace outdated residential water meters across the city, which, theoretically, could increase the amount city residents pay for their water.
The city administration wants to City Council to vote to amend Ogden’s 2021-2025 Capital Improvement Plan to include a project to replace old water meters with new ones that can be read remotely.
Ogden Public Utilities Manager Brady Herd said Ogden’s water metering system is one of the largest in Utah and includes more than 24,000 individual meters. The proposed replacement program, he said, is intended to improve meter reading efficiency, accuracy and access to water information for residents. If the plan is approved, outdated water meters throughout the city will replaced sometime during the next year.
Ogden City Engineer Justin Anderson said most of the city’s older meters likely don’t give a true account of the actual amount of water being used by residents.
“When meters get so old, they quit reading properly,” Anderson said. “That’s another reason to get them replaced, because they under read the actual water usage.”
With regular droughts and surging development that continues to put pressure on supplies, water has been an ongoing issue along the Wasatch Front for years, but the matter is compounded in Ogden and there’s one key factor complicating things. According to city council documents, just under 50% of city residents have access to secondary water, meaning many are required to use culinary water for their outdoor watering needs.
Secondary water rates throughout the city vary depending on the provider, but even with those variations, it’s generally much less expensive to irrigate a yard with secondary water than it is with culinary water. Ogden City’s water rates are based on meter size, water usage and access to secondary water.
The city also has long had an ordinance on the books governing the condition of residents’ lawns. The city’s code on landscaping (section 15-13-16) says “all plantings shall be maintained in a healthy and attractive condition (and) ... shall be adequately watered to maintain a healthy condition as by the typical color of the plant under normal growing conditions.”
But Ogden Chief Administrative Officer Mark Johnson previously told the Standard-Examiner the city has been using a relaxed interpretation of the code, particularly during dry years. It’s also important to note though, that the city doesn’t technically require homeowners to even have a lawn.
Landscaping rocks, gravel, mulches, artificial turf or wood chips can be used as ground cover without city approval as long as those materials don’t cover more than 10% of the ground area. Residents can exceed the 10% threshold, so long as the design is approved by the city planning staff. The planning staff uses a large set of criteria when making determinations.
Ogden Council Policy Analyst Amy Maybe said the council will likely hold a public hearing on the meter replacement proposal on Nov. 10.