Summit County’s region asked to cut 20% of its water usage by 2030 in new state goals
The Utah Division of Water Resources released water conservation goals on Monday that call for Summit County’s region to cut its water use 20% by 2030.
The agency does not have regulatory or enforcement powers, but is instead is hoping to raise awareness and urgency around the issue, said Rachel Shilton, the agency’s river basin planning manager.
“Utah does have a finite supply of water and we’ve been fortunate because our water supply is pretty easily accessible,” Shilton said. “We don’t really feel the crunch of that that some other states do.”
She pointed to the fact that population centers are relatively close to the source of their water, the mountains, which eases logistical challenges. The flip side of that, though, is that Utahns might not concentrate as much on conservation as neighboring states do.
Shilton didn’t say there would be catastrophic consequences if the goal is not met by 2030, but that as that state’s population increases, it’s likely water agencies statewide would have to invest more in procuring, storing and transporting water.
In 2015, Utahns used an average of 239 gallons of water per day. Shilton said that number is high compared to neighboring states, but it’s difficult to draw an accurate comparison. The agency has taken pains to include all water usage in that number, including industrial and municipal uses, Shilton said, while other states do not.
She added that Utah is in the range of neighboring states as measured by metered residential use, which she put at around 170 gallons per capita.
For the first time, instead of positing a statewide goal, the agency broke its conservation goals down into nine regions. For Summit County, the goal is to reduce the number of gallons each person uses per day from 250, which was recorded in 2015, to 200.
Mountain Regional Water District provides water to much of Summit County. Its general manager Scott Morrison said the state goals are an important step for the state and appear attainable. He added that they will likely not impact Mountain Regional, as its users average 110 gallons per person per day.
At a November Summit County Council meeting, Morrison said over 90% of Mountain Regional customers are using new, smart water meters, largely as a result of a trade-in program. The meters allow users and suppliers to track water use in real time, quickly identifying leaks and also incentivizing conservation by allowing users to track their consumption.
Andy Garland, general manager of the Summit Water Company, also said that the goals appear attainable. Summit Water serves thousands of residents in the Snyderville Basin. He pointed out that the goals put responsibility on the water user as well as the utility, and said that Summit Water has taken steps in recent years to conserve water, including installing meters that help quickly identify leaks in the system.
In exceptionally dry years like 2011, Shilton said, Utahns have been moved to adopt conservation measures like watering their lawns at night. Other ways to reduce usage include adopting low-flow appliances, shower heads and faucets, adjusting home sprinkler systems and using natural landscaping rather than turf.
“If you love playing croquet, have some lawn,” Shilton said. “But if the only time you walk on the lawn is to mow, maybe (consider another option.)”
She said the biggest culprits of water waste aren’t the largest users, like golf courses and ski resorts, as those are often managed by professionals looking to maximize efficiency. Plus, snowmaking adds to the snowpack, Shilton said, which often is often recycled through the natural system.
Ultimately, it will be up to communities to implement the strategies that will work for them.
“These water conservation goals (will hopefully drive) home to residents we need to take better care of this limited resource that’s necessary for our livelihood,” Shilton said.
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Over the next five years, Katz will donate the money to nonprofits participating in Vail Resorts’ youth access efforts that serve major metropolitan areas.