West Jordan water district offers locals help amid Great Salt Lake water crisis

Dec 5, 2023, 1:29 PM | Updated: Dec 6, 2023, 11:27 am

A bird flies over the Great Salt Lake as seen from Antelope Island at sunset on Monday, June 5, 202...

A bird flies over the Great Salt Lake as seen from Antelope Island at sunset on Monday, June 5, 2023. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

WEST JORDAN — As part of a report with the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a local Utah water district is working to help developers conserve water.

They’re working amid a serious concern about the long-term safety of water supplies and subsequently, the health of the Great Salt Lake.

After a local population boom in the state, experts and legislators in the U.S. have involved themselves in various safety and health measures as the lake’s water level declined.

However, others have argued that the most effective work can be done by local Utahns themselves.

Water in Utah’s residential yards

Alan Packard, general manager of Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District, introduced KSL TV to a local exhibit called Localscapes on Monday.

“(A localscape) saves about 60 to 70% of total water demand,” Packard said. “So that’s terrific savings and it’s a better-looking yard too.”

The exhibit serves as an example of a home landscaped using new state guidelines. It’s part of an initiative to guide cities and developers into more water conservation by being more intentional with their landscaping.

Packard said it’s also “a huge cost savings if it’s done right the first time.”

The new state standards prohibit total grass coverage for new home builds and also limit grass growth in smaller spaces.

Jake Young, a city designer and landscape architect with Citi Designs, calls grass a “drug-dependent rug” because it uses a lot of resources in water and fertilizer to stay alive.

“A common rule of thumb is only put the grass where you’re going to use it,” Young said. “And if the only time you are walking on that grass is to mow it, it probably shouldn’t be grass.”

Water on Utah’s public properties

Young said grass location should also be considered in community spaces.

“Some of that shared space in a community might be for playing and playgrounds,” he said.

Not only would alternative options for community spaces cut down on outdoor water use but also make us happier.

A study by Canadian firm Happy Cities showed that more shared spaces in communities rather than isolated lawns can increase social connection, improve mental health, and drive belonging.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents in the study reported creating more social connections and strengthening the community.

Salt Lake City has included shared paces in some of its water quality conservation projects, like a boardwalk and a walking path at the 900 South wetlands.

Young said those were developed “so that people can enjoy some of that area and not just develop right up to the river. There are ways to actually bring the public into those spaces.”

The Happy Cities study shows that reconstructing spaces like this gives a community a gathering space.

Young said in this instance, it also provided a filter for water heading downstream, keeping the water clean for the Great Salt Lake and other bodies of water important to the city.

“A healthy Great Salt Lake benefits everybody,” he said. “We’re not just thinking of today or tomorrow, we’re thinking 40 to 50 years down the road.”

In addition to community spaces, water conservation practices should be applied in culinary, stormwater and sewer systems, and other river locations that send water downstream.

“The landscape of the future I think is going to look very different than what we were seeing 10 to 20 years ago,” Young said. “The neighborhoods are going to look a lot better in the future as we move towards this water conservation.”

Community incentive

Some incentive programs like the Utah Water Savers Program help existing infrastructure move away from all law cover to more water-friendly landscapes. It pays $2.50 per square foot for replacing grass. It offers more programs, including rebates for conservative sprinkler control systems and toilet replacements.

Other financial resources are often offered by city programming and can be accessed by visiting your local city website.

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West Jordan water district offers locals help amid Great Salt Lake water crisis