LEHI — The city faced extraordinary water shortages last summer, and city officials want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“Anytime something doesn’t go as you plan, it’s a good learning experience,” said Robert Ranc, assistant to the city administrator. “This year we decided we wanted to get out ahead of the issue.”
One of the biggest problems last summer was not only the drought, but water shares being cut off. Lehi city officials estimate they were two days away from running out of water.
“We knew it was a tough water year, but we had some of our water sources that were actually cut off,” Mayor Bert Wilson said. “That put us in a bind that we weren’t planning on. That kind of brought a serious situation for our city.”
So city crews began digging a massive pressurized irrigation pond. Crews are working six days a week, 10 hours a day to get it done in time for the peak water season — June through September.
In addition to the new irrigation pond, they're digging more wells to increase the city's culinary water supply.
“When it comes to water, you never have too much,” Wilson said. “It’s like money. You always need a lot more.”
City leaders also want to conserve as much water as possible. On Friday, the city rolled out a comprehensive water shortage plan.
"I think it's the first time in history for Lehi city to do something like this,” Wilson said.
The city will divide conservation needs into three phases. In phase one, or code green, water capacity is at 75 percent to 100 percent. Voluntary conservation is in effect for lawn watering, hard-surface washing, swimming pools, outdoor fountains and ponds and washing personal vehicles.
Phase two, or code yellow, means the city has a moderate water shortage and water levels are 50 percent to 74 percent of capacity.
Sprinkler irrigation of public and private places would be allowed Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for properties with an odd-numbered city or county address, while even-numbered addresses would have sprinkler irrigation Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Sunday is encouraged to be a day for "spot watering" only. No hard-surface washing is allowed, except for health or safety reasons.
"If we get really low, like we did last year, a severe water shortage, we'll make that the red phase,” Ranc said.
That means water levels are below 50 percent of capacity.
In code red, sprinkler irrigation is prohibited between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. and limited to two days a week, according to city or county street address. Odd-numbered addresses would water Monday and Friday, with even-number addresses watering Tuesday and Saturday. Spot water would be allowed Sundays.
No hard-surface washing would be allowed, except for health and safety reasons.
Exceptions can be made for new lawns that require frequent irrigation within 30 days for establishment purposes. Exceptions are also made for short cycles required for testing, inspecting and maintaining of irrigation systems.
Those who don’t follow the new rules will receive a hand-delivered written notice of violation and instructions on necessary corrective action.
If a second violation is seen, the person will be fined $100 and a warning of actions consequent to a third violation. The violator can chose to attend a conservation class instead of paying the $100 fine.
If caught a third time violating the guidelines, the person will be charged with a class C misdemeanor.
“People want and the city wants to have beautiful yards, lush landscapes," Ranc said, "but at the same time, we live in a desert, and we need to conserve water to make that happen."
City officials are putting in extra effort to get the word out to residents about the new plan. They're reaching out on social media, as well as mailers.
“We think if we phase it like that, we can balance two things: allowing people to have as much water as possible, but making sure we have enough water to make it through the season,” Ranc said.
Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc