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South Jordan Journal

New developments in South Jordan must adhere to water efficiency standards or pay double

Jun 21, 2021 02:53PM ● By Mariden Williams

Localscaping is designed to be both water-efficient and attractive. (Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District)

By Mariden Williams | [email protected]

On May 4, the South Jordan City Council approved a new water-saving ordinance for the city, which will encourage new commercial and residential developments to install water-efficient landscaping. 

New developments that don’t adopt the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District’s standards for water efficiency will have to pay more than twice as much for water as those who do.

“For each community that opts in to these water efficiency standards, they'll have access to our least expensive water supplies—we call them Block One,” said Alan Packard, assistant general manager of the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District. 

Communities that don’t want to adopt the new water efficiency standards can opt out, but they will be relegated to the far more expensive Block Two water supplies. Block One is about $500 an acre-foot; Block Two is about $1,000 an acre-foot. 

“The Block Two supply is being developed for those lands outside of our current boundaries, and it will also be made available for those communities who decide not to opt in to the water efficiency standards. So for those cities who say ‘no water efficiency standards, don't want to do that,’ there will be Block Two water available. So it's not like we're going to turn off the tap,” Packard said.

Water-efficient landscaping, or “localscapes,” as Jordan Valley Water terms it, involves a number of factors. First, turf grass will be limited only to those areas where it can be used and easily maintained. It will take up no more than 35% of the front and side yards of residential buildings, and no more than 20% of landscaped space for commercial, industrial, or institutional buildings. The bulk of the landscape space is to be filled with lower-water plantings and irrigated with a “smart” drip system, which will water more in hot dry conditions, and less or not at all when the temperature is cool or when it rains. The results are attractive, easily maintained landscapes.

 “If implemented correctly, localscapes I think, has a great look and feel to it—better than wall-to-wall grass, for sure,” said Steven Schaefermeyer, South Jordan’s director of planning.

The new ordinance will apply only to new construction or retrofitting. “So if you do a major renovation to your yard, you would have to follow these standards. But … it's not applicable to current landscaping that's already installed,” Schaefermeyer said.

Individual back yards, schools, and recreational areas are also exempt from the localscape requirements. 

“We don't have jurisdiction over the state or schools … and grass is allowed in usable areas,” Schaefermeyer said. “So a large regional park with grass makes sense, because people are using the grass. I think part of the philosophy is, why are we wasting water on grass that people don't use? By use, I mean, play on, sit on, enjoy.” 

Jordan Valley Water’s Matt Olsen said the new efficiency standards will be a win for all stakeholders, because it will reduce costs, reduce waste, and make for more a drought-resilient community.

“As you look at Nevada and California and Arizona… they're going and doing large scale turf removal programs, incredible costs. And the problem is that it's an incredibly inefficient use of public funds,” Olsen said. Citing Division of Water Resources figures, Olsen guessed that retrofitting an inefficient landscape ultimately costs about five times more than installing an efficient one at the outset. 

The Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District has long been offering education and financial incentives for residents to improve their landscapes and reduce water use, but this has had limited results. The new ordinance introduces a more regulatory element to the quest to conserve the region’s limited water. The Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District will provide South Jordan with $60,000 a year for the next three years to offset the city’s expenditures as it adopts the new requirements. 

 “A great deal of work has gone into this by the staff at Jordan Valley Water,” said South Jordan Mayor Dawn Ramsey. I appreciate the vision for really looking long term and trying to make sure that we have enough water to accommodate all of the growth and the big picture, long term.”