Governor wants to incentivize lawn removal with a statewide buyback programSep 27, 2021 12h43 ● By Alison Brimley
Various waterwise landscape plans—as well as details on how to receive rebates for implementing yours—are available at utahwatersavers.com. (Photo courtesy Jordan Valley Water)
By Alison Brimley | [email protected]
Gov. Spencer J. Cox has a little bit of good news for Utahns.
“Every water district has reported significant water savings this year as compared to previous years,” Cox told an audience at Conservation Garden Park in West Jordan on July 29. In response to Utah officials’ repeated pleas to conserve water in a record drought year, Utahns have stepped up.
And thanks to Utahns’ compliance with fireworks bans, the state has also seen a significant reduction in wildfires, particularly in the weeks of July 4 and July 24. This is especially important in years like this one, when extra dry land increases the risk of fire and the state can’t afford to use precious water fighting flames. Still, Cox warned that we have “several months of dangerous wildfire season ahead of us,” and that people need to remain “vigilant.”
Though some of the worst outcomes have been (so far) averted this year, Utah needs to step up its long-term plans for water conservation. As one of the fastest growing states in the nation, the systems put in place now to decrease water use will have huge impacts as the population increases.
“Our administration is committed to advancing more aggressive water conservation measures,” Cox said.
The governor spoke of four distinct areas in which Utah needs to act in order to lay the foundation for a more waterwise future. One of these areas involves individual home landscapes. Cox announced his intention to implement the Localscapes rewards and Flip Your Strip programs—initially developed in West Jordan and administered by Jordan Valley Water—across the whole state.
“Turf buyback” programs like Localscapes Rewards and Flip Your Strip incentivize homeowners to replace “thirsty grass” in their yards with more waterwise plants. Flip Your Strip involves paying homeowners to replace grass in park strips, while Localscapes Rewards participants take a class about waterwise landscaping, then receive a cash incentive when they implement the landscape plans in their yards.
Jordan Valley Water began offering Flip Your Strip and Localscapes Rewards in 2017. “With growing participation year over year and proven water savings, it became natural for other agencies to want to start offering similar programs,” said Megan Jenkins of Jordan Valley Water. “In fact, this was something Jordan Valley planned for.”
While developing its rebate website, utahwatersavers.com, Jordan Valley Water recognized they could expand the programs’ effectiveness by collaborating with other agencies across the state. “By allowing multiple agencies to offer conservation programs and rebates on the same website, many inefficiencies of past water conservation efforts could be eliminated,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins says the two programs have already seen great demand in West Jordan this year. So far in 2021, 659 households have applied for Flip Your Strip, with 392 coming from within Jordan Valley Water’s service area. This represents a significant increase from 2020, when a total of 177 Flip Your Strip applications were submitted.
This year, Cox announced his intention to make Utah the first state to offer a “statewide buyback program.”
Going forward, Utah needs to be a state where grass is planted only “in areas where it actively is used, rather than using it as a default groundcover.”
At the July 29 event, Rick Maloy of the Central Utah Water Conservancy District, announced that beginning Aug. 1, these turf buyback programs pioneered in West Jordan would be available to all counties within the district. The district includes much of Salt Lake, Utah, Juab, Uintah, Sanpete, Wasatch and Duchesne counties, though a Flip Your Strip program is also available to Layton residents. (Murray City and South Jordan City are not eligible for Flip Your Strip because these cities offer their own park strip programs.)
Utahns in eligible areas can apply to begin the process at utahwatersavers.com.
Not only will those who participate get to help the state save water, they’ll also see savings on their own monthly water bill and get back a significant chunk of time they might have previously spent on lawn maintenance.
“While the actual water savings will vary depending on the size of the park strip and the materials used, we estimate that an average 5,000-8,000 gallons of water will be saved each year for every park strip that is flipped,” Jenkins said.