Officials urge Utahns to ‘Slow the Flow’ after sprinklers spotted in use after snowstorm

Posted at 9:37 PM, Apr 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-16 23:38:01-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Even amidst all the snow and rain we got this week, some in Salt Lake County gave their lawns extra water.

FOX 13 News spotted sprinklers spraying water on snow-covered lawns all around the city. Wednesday night, for example, the sprinklers at the Salt Lake County Health Department went off, which the county later conceded was a mistake.

“The health department sprinkler system is old, and it’s a manual system. The facility staff turned it on about a week ago when things got really dry, and they failed to turn it off in advance of the storm, which they would have had to do manually,” said Michelle Schmitt, deputy communications director at the Salt Lake County Mayor’s Office.

But Thursday morning, after the snow had ceased, the watering started elsewhere. Outside A&Z Produce, sprinklers went off on a strip of lawn the company maintains. A manager told FOX 13 News that the sprinklers were automated, and they immediately shut them off after noticing the issue.

“People don't need to be watering their lawn today,” said Katie Wagner, a horticulturist with Utah State University’s extension program.

As part of her work, Wagner works closely with water conservancy districts and Salt Lake City to create a system of best practices for preserving water resources.

"About 65 percent of treated water or city water use goes towards watering the landscape outdoors,” Wagner said. “The rest of it is going towards indoor water use. So, there's really a lot of room there for people to conserve water.”

In effort to make conservation simpler, USU has helped launch the Slow the Flow campaign to encourage homeowners to save their water supplies. It outlines when and where people should be watering and even offers free water audits to show them.

“The best part of it is that when the auditors finish they leave the homeowner, the property owner, with a list of things to do to make the system better,” said Stephanie Duer, the manager of Salt Lake City’s water conservation program.

According to Duer, given how dry the winter has been, the city will likely be tapping into its water storage supply sooner than they would like this summer.

“Typically, we would depend on our spring runoffs until early July,” Duer said. “And that probably will not be the case.”

With that prediction already in place, it’s all the more important to her that residents scale back when they can, especially in a storm.

“This dirt doesn’t need water,” she said.

For more information about Slow the Flow, visit their website.