Washington County increases water pricing, takes other conservation actions

Utah Drought

Water pours slowly out of the faucet on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021, in Dallas, in the home of Nora Espinoza, after a handyman made a repair to a broken pipe beneath the sink. After the repair was made, another leak was discovered in a broken pipe outside of the home. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Utah (ABC4) – Drought conditions in Utah are prompting Washington County area officials to take actions to reduce water demand.

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On Tuesday, Governor Spencer Cox issued his third executive order related to Utah’s drought conditions, asking residents to limit water usage and banning fireworks on state and unincorporated lands.

The Washington County Water Conservancy District is expanding on that, taking additional actions to reduce water demand.

Those actions include:

  • Implementing an Excess Water Surcharge starting at $1.00 per 1,000 gallons on the county’s high water users
  • Asking cities to conduct an internal audit on all public facilities to reduce water use by an additional 10% and identify non-functional lawn areas that will be converted to water-efficient landscapes
  • Requesting cities pass and enforce ordinances to limit/restrict grass in new commercial and residential developments, prohibit irrigating with treated water between the hours of 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., eliminate water features in new developments, require commercial car wash facilities to recycle water onsite, and determine lawn limits and/or water budgets for golf courses

According to a Wednesday release, Washington County has reduced its per capita water use by more than 30% since 2000 – the highest percent reduction in Utah. This was also the first county to adopt the state’s most aggressive water conservation goal.

“We have to take conservation seriously,” says Zach Renstrom, district general manager. “We have one local water resource that is almost tapped out and a population that is projected to more than double in the next 40 years.”

The district currently offers more than two dozen conservation programs and is working with Maddaus Water Management, an international authority specializing in water demand analysis, water conservation, and drought planning to identify additional programs to implement in its 2021 water conservation plan. Additional programs under review include rebates for turf removal, water-efficient irrigation devices, and water-smart appliances.

Officials report Maddaus audited the district’s current water conservation program and reported it “is on par with other notable programs in the western United States and exceeds those of other entities of a similar size and customer base.”

“Water is the lifeblood of our community,” says Renstrom. “We’re experiencing one of the worst droughts on record and we can and must do more to protect and conserve our water.”

Multiple other areas in Utah are seeing a pushing to conserve water.

Ogden City recently implemented restrictions and fines to save water as they experience a moderate water shortage. Riverton’s mayor has called on the city’s residents to conserve water.

Oakley City, located in Summit County, has put a ban on any new construction projects that would tap into the city’s water as it faces a historic drought.

Salt Lake City recently triggered a Stage 2 water shortage response for the first time since 2004 due to the dramatically low mountain snowmelt and stream flows are to blame. The creeks supplying a portion of the water for more than 360,000 water customers are ranging from only 22% to 52% of average this year.

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