New poll says Utahns want incentives for water-wise landscaping

Aug 1, 2022, 9:30 AM | Updated: Aug 2, 2022, 9:02 am
A woman places a statue on water-wise landscaping...
FILE- Shalise Marx arranges ceramic fish while working on a xeriscaping project in her yard in Layton on Thursday, June 2, 2022. (Laura Seitz/Deseret News)
(Laura Seitz/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A new poll by the Deseret News and the Hinckley Institute of Politics focused on what Utahns think are the best way to get people to conserve water.

The poll asked 801 registered voters in Utah what they thought the state should do to encourage water conservation. Incentives for water-wise landscaping had the most support, with 50%.

The second most popular option was water restrictions. That option included penalties for inappropriate water usage. One-fifth, or 20% of people thought that option would be best.

KSL NewsRadio’s Dave and Dujanovic discussed the poll Monday morning. They were joined by Spanish Fork Mayor Mike Mendenhall.

Water conservation in Spanish Fork

Mendenhall said Spanish Fork already works to conserve water. He said the city meters its water, charging citizens who use extra.

“So, 20 years ago we received some grant funds,” Mendenhall told Dave and Dujanovic. “Part of the grant funds, when we received them, called for water conservation.”

He said city officials debated multiple ways to possibly save water, finally deciding on metering the city’s water.

“How do you know if you’re conserving water unless your metering it, right?” he said. “Unless you’re measuring it, and then [giving] the citizens information [about] what they’re using,” Mendenhall said.

He said with this method of water conservation, the city is able to show exactly how much water it uses each year.

“Thankfully, those numbers are showing pretty good, especially in these extreme drought years,” he said. “We’re showing our residents, hey, you’re doing a good job, we asked you to water less, and  look how much you saved year over year.”

He credited this method’s success to its transparency with citizens.

“Giving them the information and showing them individually, and then collectively as a city, how much they save, that empowers people,” Mendenhall said.

How Spanish Fork manages

Spanish Fork does not restrict which days citizens can water or how much water they can use. It is just a matter of how much they want to pay for water usage.

We have tiers that if you go over a certain amount of water … you’re going to pay a different rate once you hit that next tier,” he said. “So if you want to water every day, all day, you can do that in Spanish Fork, [but] you’re gonna pay a lot of money to do it. And so residents don’t do it.”

In addition to the tier system, Mendenhall said the city tries to educate citizens on water usage.

 “We educate [citizens, telling them] it’s worse to try to water while it’s windy than it is when it’s sunny,” he said. “You’ll lose more to evaporation in the wind than you will the sun.”

How much is Spanish Fork really saving?

In 2021 , according to Mendenhall, Spanish Fork saved 265 million gallons of water from January to September. That’s over 800 acre feet of water.

“Our high school baseball field is two and a half acres between the baselines,” he said. “Now how much water is 800 acre feet? Well that’s 320 feet of water sitting on that field from baseline to baseline. So 320 feet of water.”

Samantha Herrera contributed to this story.

Related stories: Can water-wise landscaping help save the Great Salt Lake?


Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  

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New poll says Utahns want incentives for water-wise landscaping