BYU study: Half of Utah households overwater, damage landscapes

May 31, 2022, 5:10 PM | Updated: 6:18 pm

PROVO, Utah — The latest drought-focused research out of Brigham Young University showed that as many as half of Utah’s households are still watering their landscapes too much.

That not only wastes water, but overwatering does not even produce the healthiest lawns. This research shows that too much water is bad for lawns. There’s an optimum amount that will produce healthy plants without wasting so much.

“Just the low-hanging fruit suggests that we can do a lot better with the landscapes that we already have,” said Rob Sowby, a water resources engineer at BYU.

His team focused on two cities in Utah County in their latest research. They examined secondary water bills of anonymous customers over thousands of parcels and paired that data with aerial images over an entire month.

“We used what we call four-band imagery that takes pictures of not just color, but also heat from the cities, and tells us how healthy those landscapes are,” Sowby said.

Healthy landscapes are cooler and greener, and the data showed that many of the unhealthy landscapes were being overwatered.

“As these customers are applying more water, the landscapes get healthier. But, only up to a point. There’s this optimum point, beyond which further irrigation does not make the landscape look any better or be any healthier,” the water resources engineer said.

In the imagery, those parcels looked yellow or brown. Researchers could also tell from the heat signature that those parcels were not doing as well as their neighbors.

That’s why the Utah Division of Water Resources puts out its weekly watering guide with recommendations for every county. Last week, it recommended one watering for northern Utah, but none this week because of the storm. Smart meters also gauge your water needs based on your specific conditions.

”Water conservation does not have to be a sacrifice,” Sowby said. “The data that we have suggest that we can still have healthy and good looking landscapes with a lot less water use.”

Their research also showed that tiered-billing systems help reduce water waste. Those who had to pay more incrementally when they used more water, saved more water than those who paid a flat rate.

“Those customers who were subjected to those rates used water more efficiently, even after we controlled for some of the other things, like precipitation, and plot size,” Sowby said.

KSL 5 TV Live

Utah's Water

An irrigation control wheel to allow or prevent water from running through ditches...

Dan Rascon and Larry D. Curtis

Great Salt Lake: Utah farmers adapting to survive drought, changing water laws

According to the USDA, more than 500 Utah farms went out of business between 2017 and 2022 while Utah goes through decades of drought. New Utah laws change a long-standing policy of 'use it or lose it.'

8 days ago

meetinghouse landscaping...

Carter Williams, KSL.com

Church implements ‘important’ landscape pilot program to cut water use

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has redesigned the landscape outside six of its Utah meetinghouses and is working to complete a seventh as it seeks to move forward with new conservation goals first outlined last year at the height of the state's severe drought.

14 days ago

President Chee shows KSL 5 News photographer the artesian well. (Erin Cox, KSL TV)...

Erin Cox

Water project to bring running water to southern Utah community for the first time

A community in southern Utah has been living for years without running water. Last year, they integrated electricity into their homes, and now they face the challenge of designing a water line around some archaeological sites.

23 days ago

Mike Schultz...

Mike Anderson

Lawmaker promotes water conservation, sustainable farming

A state legislator says he's investing a lot of money into making his farmland more sustainable, and he wants other farmers to know the state can help them do the same.

26 days ago

Great Salt Lake wetlands...

Carter Williams, KSL.com

Great Salt Lake trust issues $8.5M to 8 projects seeking to protect lake’s wetlands

The Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement Trust announced Tuesday that it is sending a little more than $8.5 million in grant funds over the next two years to help fund projects that seek to preserve wetlands by the Great Salt Lake.

28 days ago

Paul Larsen City Creek Canyon...

Lauren Steinbrecher

Most of City Creek Canyon will close beginning Nov. 1

People who like to hike or bike up City Creek Canyon will need to prepare for a huge closure that will last for three years, starting next week.

1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Design mockup half in white and half in color of luxury house interior with open plan living room a...

Lighting Design

Lighting Design 101: Learn the Basics

These lighting design basics will help you when designing your home, so you can meet both practical and aesthetic needs.

an antler with large horns int he wilderness...

Three Bear Lodge

Yellowstone in the Fall: A Wildlife Spectacle Worth Witnessing

While most people travel to this park in the summer, late fall in Yellowstone provides a wealth of highlights to make a memorable experience.

a diverse group of students raising their hands in a classroom...

Little Orchard Preschool

6 Benefits of Preschool for Kids

Some of the benefits of preschool for kids include developing independence, curiosity, and learning more about the world.

BYU study: Half of Utah households overwater, damage landscapes