The Utah Valley Earth Forum released its “Environmental Survey of Greater Utah Valley Communities” for 2020, highlighting recent efforts by Utah County cities to become more environmentally sustainable.

The survey, which the Utah Valley Earth Forum has conducted annually since 2012, covers a myriad of environmental policies, including energy conservation, air quality and transportation, land use, zoning and growth, water conservation, consumption and solid waste, trees and local food and light pollution.

One of the objectives of the survey — according to James Westwater, chair of the Utah Valley Earth Forum — is to “inventory what (Utah Valley) communities say they are doing to help improve the health of their citizens and the environment we share.”

But the survey is also meant “to suggest to communities many things they can do to help improve environmental and human health, to motivate and encourage communities to do more to improve their environmental sustainability, to acknowledge outstanding achievement in environmental sustainability, and to inform the public as to who is doing what to help the environment and improve sustainability.”

“So it’s not just an inventory,” Westwater said in an interview Wednesday. “It’s also a list of things that our communities can do to improve their stewardship.”

Seven Utah County cities responded to the 2020 survey: Lehi, Lindon, Orem, Provo, Salem, Spanish Fork and Woodland Hills.

Four cities — Provo, Orem, Lehi and Woodland Hills — reported in 2020 that they had an environmental adviser or office “to steer the community in being a responsible steward of the environment.”

Cedar Hills, which did not provide responses to this year’s survey, reported in 2019 that the city had an environmental adviser or board.

This is an improvement, according to Westwater, who noted that only two communities “indicated they had a stewardship advisor person or board in 2012.”

“What is very noteworthy is the progress many communities have made in Utah Valley in being more environmentally friendly and sustainable,” he said in a statement.

Spanish Fork, Salem, Orem and Lehi reported that they have an educational program “to educate our community regarding responsible stewardship of the environment.” Additionally, Spanish Fork, Provo and Orem reported having “a way of formally recognizing community members who exemplify good stewardship of the environment.”

On the subject of energy conservation, Lehi and Provo reported having “a firm commitment to steadily replace carbon energy/carbon fuel with clean, safe (and) renewable energy,” while Salem, Spanish Fork, Orem and Lehi reported having “net-metering that credits one-to-one solar installation owners for the clean energy they produce.”

Provo was the only city that reported using tiered energy rates to “incentivize energy conservation” by rewarding conservation and discouraging waste, while Lehi joined Provo in reporting that “over the past five years, we substantially reduced our entire community’s ‘carbon footprint.’”

When asked about water conservation, Lindon reported that it prices irrigation water for “both residential and agricultural use.” Lindon, Orem, Provo and Woodland Hills all reported having tiered water rates “that reward conservation and discourage waste,” something Lehi said it is currently working on.

Lehi, Orem and Provo are the only cities in the county to indicate that they provide receptacles “where residents can deposit their waste glass,” while Lehi, Lindon, Orem and Provo reported having green waste recycling programs.

Lehi, Orem and Provo reported having public community gardens “where citizens can grow fresh produce,” which Highland indicated in 2019.

Westwater said the survey results will benefit current and future residents, noting that “it’s good for the public to know that there are good things that are going on here.”

“So if you were thinking of moving into a different community or moving into Utah Valley, and you wanted to live in a community that you felt is really doing a really good job to help the environment, this list will help you,” Westwater said. “Because it will show you who’s doing what.”

Westwater noted fewer cities responded to this year’s survey because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The full Utah Valley Earth Forum 2020 survey is available at http://uvef.org/2020_ES.html.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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