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Cities taking steps to set example for water conservation

By Genelle Pugmire - | Aug 5, 2022

Courtesy Daniel K. Pugmire

Orem's Scera Outdoor Pools, adjacent to the Scera Park, are shown on May 18, 2021.

There has been a lot to talk and concern over the need to conserve water during Utah’s extended drought. Residents have been asked to do what they can to conserve water in their homes and yard.

But what about those government entities asking residents to be conservative in water usage? It is also important for residents to see that their cities are also doing what they can to conserve. Most of these efforts are within the parks and small berms that line city streets.

Provo

Provo has implemented a number of water-saving efforts this year as the long-term drought continues, according to Scott Henderson, director of parks and recreation. Among them:

  • This spring, the city updated its standards for all future construction projects to include the latest drought-friendly irrigation technologies and practices. City leaders say it will ensure that all ongoing and future projects will manage water efficiently and sustainably.
  • The city is consistently making updates to its existing irrigation systems that will see water savings across the city. One updated site that will see significant improvement and savings this fall, officials say, is Bicentennial Park. The new flow-sensing technologies that will be installed on this site will result in water savings in the hundreds of thousands of gallons per year.
  • With the current drought in mind, the city has removed a number of areas from regular watering. These areas were chosen because they were determined to be the areas of least recreational use. Altogether, these areas have accumulated water savings over 1.2 million gallons this year.
  • The city’s WeatherTrak system controls irrigation throughout the city by using real-time weather data and cloud-based technologies to adapt to the individual plant needs of a given site. This system also allows park maintenance crews to manually override and make cuts to city water when needed. Overall current water savings have surpassed 4 million gallons this year. This was achieved through direct cuts to watering times in locations throughout the city where there were opportunities to save.

“Water-conservative landscaping is used at facilities that prioritize irrigation in highly used areas, and minimizes water in other areas where it is not necessary,” Henderson said. “Drip irrigation and other water-efficient landscaping techniques are also a key design element that will be featured on the grounds surrounding the new City Hall building.”

“Parks and Recreation will continue to monitor grounds carefully and observe the irrigation guidelines recommended by Mayor Michelle Kaufusi as we work together to protect and conserve our limited water resources in Provo,” Henderson added.

Orem

The need to conserve water has become a special issue for city crews as they care for parks and other green spaces in the city.

“Currently, we have a conservation outreach program to share, rather than pointing fingers, what we’re doing,” said Tyler Peay, public services division manager. “There is a PR (public relations) push on the city’s YouTube channel and on Facebook.”

The city is systematically putting in Smart Track Weather controllers in all the city’s 23 parks and the two new ones being built — Heritage Park and Hillcrest Park. Scera Park, the largest in the city, will get the controllers next year. In the meantime, the site has 100 watering stations that are monitored and alternated throughout the week.

So far, Peay said the city has seen about an 18% decrease in water usage or about 1.6 billion gallons over the past year. “We’re doing fantastic,” he said.

Peay noted that members of the Utah state Legislature want cities to lower water intake by 25% by 2025. Orem has dropped 16% on that road to 2025.

Peay said the city is currently looking at what it would take to change some of the city areas from lush green grass to xeriscaping. “We are exploring all options,” he said.

Vineyard

“We have been working with developers to change some of their unusable park spaces to be more drought resilient and low-water-use areas,” said Naseem Ghandor, Vineyard City engineer. “For example, our Planning Department, Water Division and Stormwater Division have been working with Home Center Construction to change the detention pond along a main public street to use low-water landscaping features designed by (the Central Utah Water Conservancy District) and Utah State University.”

“Another example of sustainability planning is how we have partnered with Flagship Homes on incorporating low-water use landscaping into the new Vineyard downtown,” Ghandour added. “As a city, we are actively working on a Utah state-driven initiative of Low Impact Development of city facilities. We are excited about these significant initiatives that will enhance the beauty of our natural environment.”

In addition, Vineyard’s Planning Department is spearheading a conservation element in the city’s General Plan, which will be the catalyst for the city to require sustainable and water conservation policies in new developments and redevelopments. The zoning code is being changed to focus more on xeriscaping.

“Vineyard’s Parks Division has created a project list to flip unprogrammed turf areas to water-wise plantings,” said Chris Wilson, Vineyard public works director. “We are following state guidelines for irrigation watering schedules. We have encouraged the residents and developers to install water-wise landscaping and have shared CUWCD’s Flip the Strip conceptual details. This will take time but we hope to create an overall water-wise city landscape.”

As the drought continues, all three cities have stressed that they want to lead by example and hope that homeowners and property owners follow.

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