Utah Homeowners, Businesses Overwatering, Study Says

Utah Homeowners, Businesses Overwatering, Study Says

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Some Utah homeowners and business are giving their lawns more water than they'd receive in a rainforest.

"There's an emphasis on wanting to make the desert bloom," said Roger Kjelgren, a Utah State University horticulture professor who helped with the five-year federally funded study of residential and business water use in Layton. "If they're putting on a couple hundred inches of water, they could grow rice on that."

Kjelgren said lawns need about 30 inches of water a year.

With the help of aerial infrared photos, Kjelgren and his colleagues Christopher Neale and Joanna Endter-Wada were able to pinpoint how much water is being used on every lawn.

"We found that 80 percent of businesses are watering more than they needed," Kjelgren said, adding that retail businesses were among the highest consumers.

The researchers found that fast-food restaurants typically waste the most water, and that is true in other parts of the state, Kjelgren said.

"We did the same study in West Jordan and got the same results," he said.

Kjelgren also had one of his classes study some Logan establishments and discovered one fast-food restaurant was using 300 inches of water on its lawn.

The study has also found that more affluent neighborhoods use more water, with some Salt Lake area hillside homes using as much as 200 inches.

Researchers found that bigger lawns were less likely to be overwatered, particularly those at churches, schools and city parks, Kjelgren said.

"They have such a large landscape that they're actually in tune with what is needed," he said.

One of the culprits of excessive watering is the automatic sprinkler system.

"They make it easy to use water, not to save water," Kjelgren said, adding that the study found that people who drag hoses around typically use the right amount of water.

To really conserve water, people need to educate themselves about the needs of plants and grass, Kjelgren said. Water restrictions like those suggested by Gov. Mike Leavitt, who asked people not to water between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., just don't work, Kjelgren said.

"Some people will just leave their water on all night," he said.

Kjelgren found that most people are already conserving, and that 20 percent of people are responsible for 80 percent of the excess water use in Layton.

"That's why the governor's 10-to-6 water restriction plan is ineffective," Kjelgren said. "Everybody is getting penalized for those few who are using too much."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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