While Provo is not in severe water restrictions, the city’s administration is asking residents to reeducate themselves on water resources and conservation.
“With Utah under a drought order, Provo City goes back to ‘elementary school’ for an education campaign explaining its water sources and how they are being protected for the future,” said Nicole Martin, community information officer.
Mayor Michelle Kaufusi and her staff are ramping up how they reach residents with what they hope will help conserve Provo’s precious resource.
“Provo citizens want to know what Utah’s drought order means for them. We are expecting and asking Provo City residents to use water wisely this year, and every year for that matter,” Kaufusi said. “Provo City staff has worked hard to ensure sufficient water for our citizens this summer and throughout the year — and there is sufficient water as long as residents will use it wisely.
“Provo’s forward-looking water management plan is designed to provide for our ongoing city needs — even during drought conditions,” Kaufusi added.
As a city, the administration is issuing common-sense water recommendations, rather than mandates, knowing the latter often create the largest water consumption with citizens essentially declaring a “run on the bank” demanding their allotment, whether needed or not, Kaufusi said.
Provo citizens are encouraged to manage their water use carefully and responsibly with the following recommendations:
- Water no more than three days each week.
- Maintain at least 48 hours between watering cycles, with garden areas an exception.
- Avoid outdoor watering during daytime hours, especially between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.
“Water management can be complex because most people focus only on surface water they can actually see, such as rivers and reservoirs. Ground water, while not visible, is a far more abundant source of fresh water,” said Dave Decker, Provo City Public Works director.
“Our citizens might be surprised to learn 90 percent of Provo’s water is generated from ground water sources,” Decker added.
According to city information, the average single-family home uses 250,000 gallons of water annually. To save on water, residents are encouraged to fix leaks, avoid daytime watering, don’t water concrete and adjust watering for inclement weather.
“With Provo’s unique water story largely taking place underground, it became important to start with the basics of the ‘Water Cycle’ we learned in elementary school,” said Martin.
The ground water cycle is simply illustrated as rivers and streams discharging into lakes where the water evaporates and then falls as moisture over the mountains. The water then returns to rivers or man-made reservoirs in the mountains, eventually making it back to lakes, where the cycle begins again.
“What is largely ignored are the lower parts of the water cycle where infiltration and percolation into the ground water aquifer occur. Over the past three years, Provo City has been proactively testing several sites where the groundwater aquifer can be recharged through infiltration and percolation, a process known as Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR),” Decker said. “In contrast to creating a ‘run on the bank,’ ASR has been likened to ‘depositing money in the bank.’”
Decker said ground water aquifer levels have diminished an average of 30 feet over the last 50 years in Provo.
“While this may not seem like a lot, the rate of decline is increasing and now is the right time to intervene. Areas in the western U.S., where they have ignored declining ground water levels, eventually lose this as a source of water and may experience other consequences.”
Provo City is actively managing surface and water sources together for a holistic approach, Decker added.
“While surface water management, and even importing water from outside the Utah County basin, is important in the long term, better overall holistic water management within the county may be more important,” Decker said.
In addition to active ASR projects, such as those in Provo, Decker also encourages using innovation to eliminate water loss from our most egregious waste sources, including Utah Lake.
“Given the shallow nature of the lake and very large surface area, the State Engineer’s office estimated between 100,000 and 250,000 acre feet of water is lost to evaporation each year.”
Eliminating even the lowest estimated water evaporation loss of 100,000 acre feet from Utah Lake would provide sufficient water for the indoor and outdoor water use of 500,000 people.
Provo currently has seven water projects under construction, 15 wells, 11 water tanks and 403 miles of water mains. Provo’s average daily consumption is 25 million gallons.
Provo Parks and Recreation has long utilized water conservative management practices even before these recent drought conditions. Park irrigation is controlled through WeatherTrack, a centralized control system that allows city grounds managers to quickly make global adjustments to irrigation schedules, run times and maximize rainfall events.
Water conservative landscaping is used at facilities that prioritizes irrigation in highly used areas, and minimizes water in other areas where it is not necessary. Drip irrigation and other water efficient landscaping techniques also are a key design element that will be featured on the grounds surrounding the new City Hall building, according to city information.
Other water conservative practices include the Timpanogos Golf Course, a Provo City facility that irrigates all fairways and greens with secondary water sources, including secondary effluent water that is discharged directly from Provo’s Wastewater Treatment plant.
This use of reclaimed sources saves millions of gallons of treated water each year that can then be redirected to residences and business within Provo, according to Martin.
Even Provo City aquatic facilities are designed to conserve water, with screening and filtration systems that recirculate water from splash pads and swimming pools to treatment tanks and then back to the aquatic features.
“Parks and Recreation will continue to monitor grounds carefully and observe the irrigation guidelines recommended by Kaufusi as we work together to protect and conserve our limited water resources in Provo,” said Scott Henderson, Parks and Recreation director.