Wet June helps Utahns conserve large amounts of water

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Salt Lake City residents have saved 1 billion gallons of water in the last several weeks. It's just one of several extraordinary numbers to emerge from a summer of very unusual weather. The bottom line: Utahns seem to be getting the message on water conservation.

When a rainy June settled in over the Red Lion Hotel, workers didn't rely on automatic sprinklers to do the right thing.

"We just shut off all the automatic valves and timers and stuff, so there wouldn't be any water waste in June when we had all the rainfall," said hotel maintenance engineer Kirk Young.

**2009 Precipitation Levels:**
Bear - 268% Weber - 305% Provo - 278% Duchesne - 223% Price - 189% SE Utah - 182% Sevier - 128% SW Utah - 63% *[-Natural Resource Conservation Service](http://www.ut.nrcs.usda.gov/snow/)*
The same conservation ethic prompted the transformation of a fountain into a garden last year by Salt Lake City Public Utilities. "It's a very low-water garden. There are plants that don't have a very high demand," explained Stephanie Duer, Salt Lake City Water conservation coordinator.

Duer preaches water conservation, so she's happy about water use in June.

"Our June usage looked like April usage, let's put it that way," Duer said.

Statistics show that water use always goes way up with summer watering. From 2005 to 2008, the city average followed a jagged curve.

**Reservoir Storage**
**(% of capacity as of 07/01/09):** Bear - 43% (up 250,000 acre feet) Weber - 100% Provo - 99% Duchesne - 96% SE Utah - 86% Sevier - 47% SW Utah - 77% Salt Lake City- 98.9% **Statewide - 80%** [*-Natural Resource Conservation Service*](http://www.ut.nrcs.usda.gov/snow/)
By July 15, 2008, Salt Lake City residents have used 44,607 acre feet of water. So far this year, Salt Lake residents have used 41,247 acre feet; a difference of 3,360 acre feet which is equal to 13 billion gallons of water. The drop is even more stunning compared with average use 10 years ago. Before 2000, Salt Lake City residents used 210 million gallons of water on a typical summer day. Over the last several years usage has dropped to 182 million gallons; the highest daily usage so far this year is 158 million.

Back then, people tended to keep sprinklers on in rainy periods; now they don't.

"What I see is every time we have a rain event, more water gets turned off and for longer. So, people are responding to the weather, which is exactly what we want to see," Duer said.

It's a similar story for water suppliers in Weber and Davis counties.

"If you took a normal June and cut it in half, that's what our demand was," said Tage Flint, of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District.

The result: storage reservoirs pushing the hundred percent mark as we rounded the corner into a warmer July.

"It's a real anomaly. We don't think our reservoirs have been at 100 percent at the first of July, probably for 50 years," Flint said.

In theory, this is good news for next spring: Reservoirs should be in good shape. But what if the rest of the summer is abnormally hot and dry and there's no snow next winter? The message is still: Be water-wise and save it wherever you can.

E-mail: jhollenhorst@ksl.com

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