As the importance of water conservation escalates in Salt Lake City, more than 50 area water experts gathered on April 7 at Rio Tinto Stadium to present outdoor water conservation tactics and strategies for the future.

With representation from municipalities, public agencies, water industry associations and irrigation and landscape companies, the focus of the meeting centered on how water conservation in the landscape is vital to ensuring the future water supply for Utah’s booming population.

“Large landscape water users need to step up and learn about and implement water-efficient products and better management practices,” said Chris Wright, water conservation advisor for Ewing Irrigation Products, a Phoenix-based distributor of irrigation and landscape products. “The industry (irrigation) has come a long way in developing water-efficient technologies for the landscape. We have smart phones and smart cars, but we also have smart irrigation products that can drastically reduce the amount of water used in the landscape.”

Water agencies echoed the importance of water-efficient technology, encouraging conservation tactics such as designing and installing water-efficient irrigation products, regulating irrigation system pressure and maintaining irrigation system uniformity.

David Rice, conservation programs coordinator for the Weber Basin Conservancy District, the regional water supplier for 32 cities and districts, said Utah is facing three key water supply issues—growth, drought and environmental regulations—and the population must collectively reduce water consumption by 25 percent over the next 25 to 50 years to compensate for supply and demand. 

“Water is a valuable resource we take for granted,” said Rice. “Sixty to 65 percent of residential water used is consumed in our landscapes and gardens. If we learn to be more efficient, water appropriately and use the proper plant material suited to our climate, our water supplies will be adequate to meet our current and future needs. We are not asking everyone to take drastic measures, but to be more aware and efficient, and eliminate the waste.” 

In addition to daily water conservation tactics, Rice believes long-term water conservation measures such as education, demonstration gardens, water auditing and ordinances and restrictions will collectively work to reach their water use reduction goal.

According to Rice, the combination of these measures will be necessary, but he believes ordinances and increased water pricing will be the most effective options for reducing wasteful practices.

“I would prefer that education and voluntary action be the primary measure for water savings, rather than coercion through pricing or law,” said Rice. “However, with water there seems to be a general attitude of entitlement, which is deterred most of the time only by higher pricing and enforced ordinances against wasteful behaviors. Education is always a key in helping the public understand an issue, but it doesn’t always change a behavior.”