WASHINGTON COUNTY – Water and more specifically its usage is often a pressing issue in desert communities; in ours, it has become cause for complaint by numerous citizens.
“I’m trying to figure out how we can stop all of those places that run their sprinklers in the middle of the day,” said Cara Hatch Street of St. George. “(I’ve been told) to only water at night but I see (this) every day. I’m only one person, but something really needs to be done.”
Ivins resident Mike Eldridge added, “It’s mostly businesses. I see the water on (at all times), running down the sidewalks. So much water is wasted through evaporation.”
But these residents may not understand that commercial properties are exempt from certain water requirements, said René Fleming, Conservation Coordinator for the City of St. George. This is due to the fact that schools, parks, golf courses and cemeteries run on irrigation quality water (as opposed to drinking quality water in homes). The local irrigation system lacks the storage and production capabilites of the residential system, forcing these facilities to water whenever possible and often during the middle of the day. However, homeowners are strongly advised to water between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.
“When the city enacts water restrictions, they only apply to users who irrigate with drinking water,” she said. “But there are landscape standards for commercial properties, such as a water audit to verify an efficient irrigation system is installed. Rather than assuming there is a water waste issue, (talk to your) parks and recreation department.”
The City of St. George’s Water and Energy Conservation department offers several monetary incentives to join the water conservation effort, like the Residential Toilet Rebate, which encourages the replacement of old, leaky or high-water-usage toilets for more efficient ones. Others include the Multi-Family Toilet Rebate, Commercial Urinal Rebate and Pressure Regulating Valve Rebate for outdoor irrigation. Nearly 1,000 rebates have been issued since the program’s inception five years ago.
Fleming also gave several tips on how to cut down residential water use:
• Regularly check toilets for leaks
• Run your washing machine or dishwasher only when the load is full
• Take as short a shower as possible
• Do not run the sink continuously while brushing your teeth
• Only put plants in your yard that have low water requirements
It has been estimated that most local homeowners overwater their yard by as much as 50 percent; in response, the Washington County Water Conservancy District launched the Free Lawn Water Audit Program, which teaches how to use sprinklers or drip systems to irrigate efficiently without excess. For those with flower or fruit and vegetable gardens, monthly water-wise workshops are held at the Tonaquint Nature Center at no cost. A complete schedule for 2012 can be found here. “We ‘are’ making a difference,” Fleming said. “(Recent water samples) showed a decrease (in water usage) from 179 gallons per person per day in 2007 to 152 gallons in 2011. There is room to improve, but we’re heading in the right direction.”
Ken Cooper, a resident of Washington, said, “I think the cities of Washington and St. George have done a pretty good job. But unless we are constantly reminded of the importance of conserving water, the topic usually takes a back seat (in our community). Short of ripping out my front lawn, I’m not sure what else I personally can do.”
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Copyright 2012 St. George News.