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Reporting from the St. George area focused on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues and faith and spirituality.

St. George residents saved 362 million gallons of water this summer, a trend the mayor says needs to continue

Photo of children playing on a splash pad outside
Lexi Peery
St. George residents cut down on their water usage this summer. Officials say the warnings about Utah’s drought helped people change behavior.

St. George announced city residents cut water usage by around 8% over the summer compared to last year. This happened while nearly 2,000 new water connections were added to the system.

About half of the area’s culinary water is used outdoors. Officials have pushed for residents to cut down on watering their lawns, something St. George Mayor Michele Randall said she did for the first time this summer.

What that meant for Randall was watering her lawn three times a week. She said it doesn’t look as good as it did in the past, but she said brown lawns are something she — and other residents — need to get used to.

“Maybe we'll be blessed with an abundance of rain for the next 10 years, but right now we're not,” she said. “We all have to do our part, every one of us, whether you've been here your whole entire life or you just moved here.”

St. George City reported residents saved 362 million gallons of culinary water from June to September. Secondary irrigation water — used for outdoor spaces like golf courses, parks and cemeteries — was cut by 63 million gallons over the summer, or about 12.7%.

But St. George isn’t the only southern Utah city that saw water savings this summer. Washington County Water Conservancy District spokesperson Karry Rathje said it’s a trend across the seven major cities in the county. She said the other cities track closely to the growth and savings St. George had.

“I think that this year was great in that the drought created a stronger conservation ethic,” she said. “I think homeowners and business owners have learned that they can sustain their landscapes with less water, and I think that people incorporated water saving practices in their homes.”

Rathje said the local reservoirs are all about half full. Summer storms helped improve the soil moisture in the area, but now the water district is hoping for a wet winter to replenish the county’s water supply.

St. George water services director Scott Taylor said he knew the county’s reservoirs would be OK this year, at least.

“I'm more concerned about next year,” he said. “But we really stress[ed] the importance of conservation this year because every gallon of water that we save this year is a gallon of water that will be available for us next year.”

Taylor said the 2,000 new water connections in the city translates to about 6% growth. He said that makes this year’s saving’s “impressive,” and he’s hopeful the trend will continue.

“While the conservancy district and the city are continuing to explore new sources of water, we know that it's limited,” he said. “[With] the amount of growth that we're seeing — I don't see that it's going to slow down much anytime soon. So given our limited resources and the growth that we're experiencing, conservation has to play a key part.”

To further decrease outdoor water use, cities in the area are currently working on ordinances to put restrictions on landscaping on all new developments. Randall said St. George will ramp up their conservation messaging even more this year.

“We have to continue on this trend,” she said. “We don't have a choice. It's either that or no growth. Period.”

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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