July 18: Sustainability, water conservation

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In this Sunday Edition, KSL's Richard Piatt discusses Salt Lake City's sustainability plan with a city leader and a member of the builders association. Also, the need for water conservation is explained by two water experts.

Segment 1: Sustainability in Salt Lake City

Sustainability. What does that mean? A dictionary definition would include words like: support, maintain, prolong, and nourish.

In Salt Lake City, Mayor Ralph Becker is spearheading a project to change certain zoning laws and ordinances in order to encourage sustainability. The goal is to make Salt Lake City the most sustainable community in the country.

Vicki Bennett, Salt Lake's project manager and director of the Division of Sustainability and the Environment, and Curt Dowdle, from the Salt Lake Home Builders Association, discuss the proposal.

Bennett explains the the city's Sustainable Community Development Code Revision Project.

"We like to look at it as really livability; what is it that makes Salt Lake City the place that we want to live?" says Bennett. "The place that has clean air, clean water; the place that our children will be able to stay, be able to find jobs, have nice homes and the education that they need."

"Some of the things that we are looking at are basically trying to remove barriers: What can we do to allow people to have solar on more than perhaps just the back of their house? Could we perhaps put solar in empty lots?" describes Bennett.

"We are looking at more recycling," he continues. "We will be asking all of our residents to recycle and have the yard waste cans. We will be looking at ways to help businesses to find places to put recycling. We are also looking at removing some barriers so that urban gardens can sprout a little be better and perhaps sell some of the produce in farmer's markets."

"It's a very broad-brush approach to looking at everything," Bennett says. "Our whole goal is to really improve air quality, approve the ability of people to live near transit and, as a result, make it so we have a better environment in our city."

Dowdle is pleased that the city is including increasing population density in their plan.

"The cities are saying 'sustainability,' and part of that is density; and we are delighted with that," says Dowdle.

The discussion continues about green construction, solar panels and the EnergyStar program. Both guests acknowledge that the cost can discourage homeowners; but over time, changes pay off and tax credits can help make energy efficient changes viable.

Segment 2: Water conservation

Every summer we hear the same message: Conserve water and "slow the flow." But everywhere there are examples of water waste with seemingly with no consequences. You turn on the tap, and the water is there. There's still snow in the mountains, even in 100-degree July heat.

Stephanie Duer, the Salt Lake City water conservation coordinator, and Eric Klotz, from the Utah Division of Water Resources, discuss water conservation.

Population growth is a main reason to conserve water, Klotz says.

"We are facing an increase in population, an incredible increase in population; and with that incredible increase in population we feel that there is a need to conserve water, because we can't keep doing and using the same water that we have been using," explains Klotz.

He adds that the low cost of water is one of the challenges in encouraging people to conserve.

"The biggest obstacle in the state right now is the cost of water. It is fairly low compared with other areas of the country," says Klotz. "It just doesn't seem to get people's attention because their water bill is usually one of the lower utility bills that they have to pay."

But people are doing a good job of conserving water.

"We track water use every single day, and we have strong evidence to indicate that the community, as a whole, is really taking strong steps behaviorally to change how they use water," Duer explains.

She says Utah has only been focused on conservation for about 10 years, and the strides that have been made are impressive. But she says there are still a lot of people who can help make even a greater difference and much of the work involves infrastructure.

"It's not just a behavioral change we are looking for. In many cases, we are looking for a structural or infrastructure change that we have to achieve," Duer says.

She says it can cost $1 million for a new irrigation system and landscaping for 100 acres, like the University of Utah.

The guests continue to discuss future options and plans.

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