Utah official applauds Nevada’s water conservation efforts; warns against direct comparisons

Utah’s water districts may not completely ban weed like Las Vegas, but efforts are being made

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Water from a leak in a sprinkler system in Summerlin, a community in the Las Vegas Valley, Nevada, on Thursday, September 29, 2022.

This story is part of a series on how Las Vegas is addressing its water scarcity and what Utah can learn from its efforts. Click through to read more: Part 1, Part 2, Part 2 – Sidebar, Part 3.

Water Budgets Golf Course. Pool size limits. A total ban on grassland design. Full-time Water Waste Investigator. The Southern Nevada Water Authority is a hard core in its water conservation efforts compared to Utah.

But to be fair, the comparison isn’t really apples to apples.

“The Southern Nevada Water Authority is a leader in water conservation. We appreciate the path they have taken and look forward to their advice and cooperation as we implement more aggressive conservation efforts across the state of Utah,” said Kim Wells, director of communications for the Utah Department of Natural Resources.

But, Wells said, it’s difficult to compare the conservation efforts of a comparatively compact regional water agency like SNWA to a state with 470 separate water agencies scattered across several unique climate zones within a state more than 600 times the size of Las Vegas .

Also, Utah has Nevada and the rest of the United States slightly ahead. The Utah Legislature this year approved and funded the first statewide grass removal rebate program in the country with $5 million.

In addition, Utah’s water utilities, which previously relied solely on voluntary water-use reductions, are increasingly enforcing mandatory water conservation measures, shutting off water entirely for repeat violations, and working with local governments to limit weed growing on new developments.

The water districts may not outright ban grass like SNWA — in fact, they don’t have the legal authority that SNWA does — but limiting grass to a water efficiency standard of no more than 35 percent of landscaping is gaining traction in Utah.

“In the past, there hasn’t been much interest in new development contracts,” said Jonathan Parry, assistant general manager for the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District.

But of the district’s approximately 45 municipalities within its catchment area, 17 have so far implemented some form of restrictions on the use of grass in landscaping for new construction. “Some are more aggressive than others, but all have at least raised the bar on how the turf is used,” Parry said.

The Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District is also seeing success in working with its local communities to limit grass for new developments. “High growth areas such as Herriman, Bluffdale, South Jordan, West Jordan, Kearns and to a lesser extent West Valley City have all adopted water efficiency standards that apply to new construction,” said Cynthia Bee, Jordan Valley Outreach Coordinator.

Wells also points out a few things to remember about Utah’s conservation efforts:

• Utah residents reduced water use by 20 percent through largely voluntary efforts.

• Nearly 3,000 toilet discounts have been processed since the program began in 2019 as part of the nationwide rebate of up to $100 to replace an old toilet with a WaterSense-labeled toilet.

• 23,640 rebates have been processed since 2018 as part of the nationwide rebate of up to $75 for a WaterSense-labeled smart irrigation controller—which reduces water waste by automatically adjusting irrigation rates based on weather and landscape conditions.

This article is published by the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that brings together news, education and media organizations to educate people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake — and what can be done to help make a difference before it’s too late. Read all of our stories below greatsaltlakenews.org

https://www.sltrib.com/news/2022/11/17/utah-officials-applauds-nevadas/ Utah official applauds Nevada’s water conservation efforts; warns against direct comparisons

Justin Scacco

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