SALT LAKE, Utah – The Salt Lake valley population is growing. The water supply is not.
In April, West Jordan City Council discussed passing a change in ordinance to encourage water-wise landscaping in new construction.
Some changes need to be made to meet water use standards made by the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District, which provides water to the city.
“The purpose is to incorporate the water efficiency standards of JVWCD,” West Jordan city planner Larry Gardner said. “City properties are exempt.”
The ideas for changes to current standards, are applicable to new builds only. The ideas are:
- Increases planting bed requirements from 40% to 50%, with a 75% coverage at maturity.
- New trees planted must be ones that do well in West Jordan soil.
- Turf is limited to 20% of the landscaped area, down from 25%
- Prohibits turf in park strips in commercial and residential.
- Homebuilders must have at least one model home that shows an example of water-wise landscaping.
- No solid concrete park strips.
No decisions have been made, and further discussion and a public hearing will occur May 12. In April, the council discussed at length the needs of the city residents and water conservation.
“In the Oquirrh Mountain meeting, the water guy said, ‘Unless we start conserving we won’t have the water needed,’” Councilmember Kayleen Whitelock said. “If we allow too much concrete and rock, we create heat islands. That’s not going to help the water problem either.”
While it is easy to implement rules on new development, it is hard to force existing homeowners to make landscaping changes.
“How do we tell them we don’t want their entire yard to be grass?” Councilmember Kelvin Green said. “We live in the second-driest state in the country. We are in the middle of a drought; we ought to be telling people to get rid of their grass.”
“There’s a lot of things that sound great, [but] it’s never enforced,” Councilmember Chad Lamb said. “There’s a lawn in my neighborhood that the grass is dead. The city isn’t going to go after them and make them put it in. As a citizen, I’m glad it’s never been enforced.”
“Education is what we need to do,” Lamb said.
“I’d be in favor of incentivizing instead of punishing,” Councilmember David Pack said. “Inviting and incentivizing. Conservation and sustainability takes precedence over aesthetics.”
At some point, the residents’ water needs in the near future might be at breaking point.
“We’re talking as if we have a choice,” Councilmember Melissa Worthen said. “In 10 years, we may not have a choice. We’re not going to have water to water our lawns; we’re going to need water to drink. People have got to stop overwatering.”
The discussion also included the city’s use of water in the conservation equation.
“What we require of our commercial residents should be required of us,” Whitelock said.
“Maybe we need to look at our parks,” Worthen said. “There’s definitely wasted areas.”
The community chimed in after the council’s discussion.
“I really like what I heard [in the discussion],” resident Michelle Foote said. “Our family is currently in the process of localscaping our property and are loving the results so far. I would love to see new developments required to use a localscape idea.”
Bruce Cutler thought the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District was putting too much pressure on the city to make changes.
“It sounds to be a little out of hand for them to be mandating them so quickly,” Cutler said. “Without really giving you a chance to make sure it’s really right for the city.”