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South Valley Journal

Riverton asks residents to immediately cut water use by 25 percent

Aug 29, 2018 03:03PM ● By Jana Klopsch

A perfect green lawn is an overwatered lawn, according to Riverton City water director Scott Hill. (Riverton City Communications)

By Mariden Williams | mariden.w@mycityjournals.com

Due to increasing drought conditions and excessive water use, Riverton city officials are asking residents and businesses alike to cut their culinary and secondary water use by 25 percent. Citywide, 6–7 million gallons of culinary water and 30–34 million gallons of secondary water are being consumed each day. That equates to an average of 683 gallons used per day per household of culinary water and 2,952 gallons per day per household of secondary water. 

“We realize this may be an inconvenience for some people, but the conditions are such that we are going to have a real problem if we don’t immediately begin to reduce our water use,” said Riverton City Manager Konrad Hildebrandt. “This conservation request is going to take a concerted effort and a change in habits.” 

Currently, the water system is operating above recommended capacity, which is causing water pressure variation in certain areas of the city. The system is capable of accommodating the state-recommended water needs for Riverton’s growing population, but it wasn't designed to accommodate excessive use from individual users, and most residents significantly overwater their grass. 

“People generally don’t know how much water they are actually using to keep their lawns green. It’s more than you might think, and we need everyone to cut back in Riverton,” said Scott Hill, Riverton City’s water director. “We know people want to keep their lawns green this time of year, but the fact is, if a lawn is totally green right now, it is being over-watered. Brown spots are going to show up, and we all need to get comfortable with that.” 

Riverton City has already begun to take measures to cut back watering on the 473 acres of city parks and other green space. The state-recommended amount of water for this time of year in the area is about 1.83 inches of water per week. The city is averaging about 1.5 inches on city green space per week, which is about 25 percent less than the recommended amount. 

Every residential address in Riverton has secondary water access available for a flat monthly rate based on lot size — a cost-saving service that most cities cannot or do not provide, according to Riverton officials. But currently, city leaders don’t meter secondary water usage at all, and city officials speculate that this is the main cause of water overuse. 

"We know that secondary water meters are going to come at quite an expense," said Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs. Before taking that costly measure, Staggs said, "I'd like to be able to demonstrate that we have exhausted all options, and one such option could be smart controllers." 

Smart sprinkler controllers use data gathered from the nearest weather station together with manually entered information about soil types, plants, yard slopes, shade and sprinkler heads to create a custom watering schedule tailored to both your yard and the weather. One such product is SkyDrop, which Riverton officials are considering implementing across the city in both residential and public areas. 

In 2016, SkyDrop installed some 4,000 controllers in Yucaipa, California, which had been mandated by the state to cut water usage by 26 percent or face heavy fines. The company found that professionally installed SkyDrop systems saved the average homeowner about 85 percent more water compared to usage the previous year, and self-installed systems saved 31 percent. If Riverton were to strike up a program with SkyDrop, the company would offer free professional installation to residents, and the state of Utah would offer a $100 rebate on the $200 product. 

Another potential effect of smart sprinkler controllers would be the possibility of city officials monitoring individual households' water usage via a web app and then fining overzealous water-users accordingly. 

"This could lend itself to being called maybe Big Brother-ish, I don't know," said Staggs. "In Yucaipa, where they had a mandate from the state of California to reduce by 26 percent... the city was able to then see who was abiding by the restriction and who was not, and so code enforcement gave warnings, and then that behavior was ultimately able to be changed." 

Right now, the 25 percent reduction in water use is voluntary. However, should the water situation worsen, city officials will evaluate what additional options may be available to curb excessive use. 

“Just turning back your sprinkler clock five minutes overall will help with the situation,” Hildebrandt said. “Everyone in Riverton needs to do their part to ensure that we are conserving water and using what we have in a responsible way.” 

City officials will be providing conservation tips and educational material both on the city website at rivertoncity.com and on their Facebook page in the days and weeks ahead.