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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.

Washington County approves an ‘aggressive’ water conservation plan

Lexi Peery
Washington County leaders have plans or “aggressive” water conservation goals in the coming years to keep with the demand for water in the booming community.

Washington County leaders are aiming to cut water usage by 14% per capita by 2030. To reach that goal, the Washington County Water Conservancy District plans to implement things like tiered water rates and rebates for removing turf.

Zach Renstrom, the general manager of the agency, said they release conservation plans every five years, and this one — which was approved by the district’s board Wednesday night — came at an important time with the ongoing megadrought.

“We said, let's set that high, high goal and do everything we can to get there. And so it is a very aggressive goal,” he said. “I think if certain things happen, we'll get really close to getting that.”

According to the conservancy district, the county has already cut per capita water usage by 30% since 2000, and St. George City officials said residents saved over 360 million gallons of water this summer.

Another key part of the conservation plan is for cities to have stricter water regulations, like limiting grass in new developments. The district is the provider of water and can’t enact conservation ordinances. That’s up to the municipalities.

St. George Mayor Michele Randall said her city, and others in the area, will be passing these water saving ordinances soon.

“I think if just St. George was doing it and nobody else was, it's not going to get us very far conservation wise,” she said. “But this gives a unified message that we are all in this together. We all live in the same county together. We all want what's best for the county.”

Conserve Southwest Utah, a local environmental group, supports the measures the county is taking, according to Ed Andrechak, vice president of the board. But he wishes they would do more, given the dire water conditions in the region.

“They should go as far and as fast on water conservation as they can,” he said. “That means don't just put in the ordinances for new construction, find a way to put them in for the existing houses and businesses.”

The district estimates the plan will cost $12 million per year until 2025, and in 2026 a new conservation plan will be released.

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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