ST. GEORGE — A new water conservation campaign launched by Washington County water managers is encouraging households to dial back their outdoor watering by one day, which they say could help save over 400 million gallons of water per month.
The newest conservation campaign comes amid the continuing drought and calls to save as much water as possible. So far, water managers say county residents have been using less water as calls to conserve rose in the wake of an increasingly severe drought earlier this year.
Like other desert communities, more than 50% of Washington County’s water is used on landscapes. According to the Washington County Water Conservancy District, the easiest and most effective way to minimize water use is by cutting back on outdoor watering, saving an average of 1,500 gallons per household per day.
“Washington County can save more than 400 million gallons a month if homeowners irrigate one day less a week – that’s a remarkable amount of water,” Zach Renstrom, water district general manager, said in a statement.
Karry Rathje, communications and government affairs director for the water district, said the 1,500 gallons a day figure was from water use numbers calculated by the Utah Division of Water Resources. The water district then took that number and multiplied it by the number of households in Washington County that irrigate and came up with the 400 million gallon savings figure.
To remind homeowners to dial back the irrigation clock, the district created the “Clock On!” campaign, a rock music-themed effort to remind everyone it’s time to “get amp’d” about saving water and do more to conserve.
Radio listeners may have already heard one of the water district’s rock-based ads telling people they can become a “conservation rockstar” by cutting a day of outdoor watering.
Details about the Clock On! campaign and water conservation tips can be found on the water district’s website.
With the roll out of the water district’s newest conservation campaign, St. George News asked the county’s water managers whether Washington County residents have been adhering to conservation efforts.
“Our local citizens have done an amazing job on responding to the drought,” Renstrom said.
County residents have adopted short-term conservation measures, such as irrigating less and letting their lawns go dry. Additionally, others have begun to adopt long-term conservation strategies.
“They’re looking at their landscaping and just applying enough water to keep their yards growing and alive, so they’re not over-watering,” Renstrom said. “That’s a huge help.”
Local builders are also building more water-efficient homes, which the water district encourages to become a regular practice.
Overall, Renstrom said the county has cut back 30% of its water use and the district is looking to reduce that percentage even further.
“We have had significant cuts in the water that people are using, and moving forward, we’re asking them to make additional cuts. We have a goal of another 20% at least,” Renstrom said. “… One thing that has come out of this drought, too, is we’re having a really robust discussion about what new water conservation measures should be undertaken.”
As a way to promote those additional cuts, Renstrom is in the process of visiting the city councils of the county’s various municipalities with a request to create and pass ordinances requiring water-efficient construction and practices. Thus far, city officials across the county appear receptive to the idea, he said, so people may begin to see the adoption of such ordinances in the coming months.
As he has stated before, Renstrom doesn’t expect to see any issues with the water district meeting the county’s water needs for the remainder of the year. Thanks to recent monsoonal rains, he is also optimistic about next year.
“These monsoonal rains have been significant,” he said, adding that the area is seeing twice the average rain for this time of year. “They’re putting moisture in the soils, and the snowfall we do receive, we’re hopeful that water will actually make it down to the reservoirs this year.”
Last winter, the ground was so dry that any water from melting snowpack was soaked into the soil before it reached the streams and rivers that fill the state’s many reservoirs. With the ground moist from the rains and not as likely to soak up whatever the area gets from snowpack, Renstrom said the water district has a much more hopeful outlook for the coming water year, which starts Oct. 1.
Statewide, the monsoonal rains and cooler temperatures have helped improve soil conditions and downgraded more areas of the state from “extreme” drought to “severe” drought. About 88% of the state is now in “extreme” or “exceptional” drought compared to 98.75% last week, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
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