Park City water ordinance begins on a serious note
According to the Park City Water Department, the steady decline in water usage over the past five summers shifted dramatically last year and in the wrong direction.
During the summer of 2005, residents consumed 68 million more gallons of water than they did in the summer of 2004.
The department reports at least part of the problem had to do with the fact that many thought a wet spring and a snowy winter meant there was no need to curb their water use.
Last summer, the state declared Utah’s drought over, which was somewhat misleading, according to Park City Water Department’s Customer Service Coordinator, Paul Jerominski. While technically the drought may have ended, the city’s water resources need more time to replenish. It takes an average of two years for the snow from the tops of mountains to restore groundwater resources, he says.
"Everyone saw it was raining and snowing, and read that the drought was over in the newspapers, but we still need to keep in mind that we live in a desert," he explained. "We need to do more education with people because we’re not out of a drought. It could happen at any time."
The city owns 16 tanks with a capacity to hold a total of 11.65 million gallons and has a water plant with the ability to produce 10 million gallons a day, according to Jerominski. The city tries to reserve 75 percent of the water in tanks for fire protection.
Last year, the city came close to depleting its fire protection resources. The day that Park City used the most water in 2005 was during a week when the city had already declared a water emergency, according to Park City Water Manager Kathy Dunks. The city used 8.6 million gallons of water more than a million gallons over the city’s 7.5 million gallon maximum it sets per day.
"July tends to be the hottest, driest part of the year, so people use more water," she said. "It was hard to get the word out about an emergency."
The biggest water-guzzling culprit is watering lawns, Jerominski and Dunks say it accounts for 60 to 65 percent of all water usage.
Beginning in May and continuing through September, therefore, the keeps a closer eye on water usage on a weekly basis.
Starting this month, Park City’s water ordinance goes into effect: absolutely no watering is allowed between the hours of 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., and watering lawns is restricted to every other day– even numbered addresses may water on even-numbered dates and odd-numbered addresses may water on odd-numbered dates.
Special permits may be applied for and issued for those with new sod to use extra water, but for the rest, the water rules are enforced with monetary penalties. The first offense for watering during no-watering hours is $100, the second offense is $200, and the cost continues to increase in $100 increments for each subsequent violation. Penalties for violating the ordinance appear on water bills.
Jerominski enforces the water code himself, but adds "you would be surprised how many people call us to tell us about their neighbors."
Often the first warning is enough, and typically the violation was unintentional, he says. He has yet to have anyone exceed the $200-fine mark.
Park City Municipal enforces watering every other day, but encourages residents to water every third day, says Jerominski. Those that practice watering every third day can get a water conservation sticker from the city, he says, with the hope that perhaps neighbors might take note and do the same.
Residents could water even less, according to Recycle Utah Executive Director Insa Riepen. She recommends watering every fourth day. She quotes a statistic: a typical one-day use indoor per person has been estimated at 70 gallons; watering a quarter-acre lawn can equal as much as 2,500 gallons per day.
Riepen would rather that residents not have a lawn at all or a sprinkler system for that matter. Much of the water sprayed by sprinklers is lost to evaporation, she says, since the water is sprayed through the air.
Second best to not having any lawn, Riepen advises sub-surface irrigation a network of irrigation pipes planted beneath lawns to avoid any evaporation.
As a third water conservation alterntive, those who use a sprinkler to water their lawns should purchase a rain gage, that will sense when it has already rained, and prevent re-watering the lawn, she says.
Riepen notices in general that in Park City, "people could do a lot better" when it comes to conserving water. A rule of thumb she says she teaches her kids is to purchase appliances with the "Energy Star" sticker and to check for leaks in faucets, pipes and toilets.
Dunks says the important point to remember is that water conservation needs to be a part of everyday life.
"Last year, there was a wet spring and a wet winter and we saw water consumption numbers go way up Drought or not, we live in a high mountain desert and [water conservation] needs to be a part of living here," she said.
Look for weekly graphs on Park City’s water usage every Wednesday in The Park Record.
For more information on how to conserve water, visit http://www.conservewater.utah.gov.
Planting indigenous flowers, shrubs and grasses is also a way to conserve water. The Native Plant Sale, hosted by Recycle Utah, is scheduled for June 10, at the Recycle Utah Center.
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