Kelly Kopp was auditing irrigation systems this summer when she visited a house of recent transplants in Salt Lake City. The Utah State University water conservation and landscaping professor said the owners had lived in the state for about two years and had no idea the winters of the ‘Utah meant you had to turn off the outside water.
“When I started using the controller and we started looking at all the different irrigation areas on the property, there were amazing leaks,” Kopp recalls.
She said the sprinklers had been destroyed by frost. They had used the pipes all summer, and since the water ran at night, the family had never noticed that the water was wasted.
And even if the pipes don’t break, watering lawns in the winter is itself a waste.
“With our weather conditions, there are many times of the year when the plants just don’t need extra watering,” Kopp said.
Utah Division Water Resources Conservation Officer Shelby Ericksen accepted.
“When temperatures start to drop, we have plants that go dormant. That’s why the grass turns brown because it goes into this period of hibernation,” she said. “So he doesn’t need water then.”
And all that wasted water is tapping into depleted reservoirs in Utah.
At this moment, the States reservoirs, excluding the federally run Lake Powell and Flaming Gorge reservoirs, are at 42% of total capacity. In the midst of a 20-year mega-drought, saving water is crucial.
Ericksen also said that water that enters the ground can take hundreds of years to return to an aquifer.
“Water that’s applied to your lawn many times won’t be reclaimed, so it’s best to save water or not use it on your lawn to begin with,” she said.
Winterizing water irrigation systems may require a professional, Ericksen said. But you can also do it yourself by watching how videos.
“It’s really important that we consider the opportunities we have to save water now when our yards don’t need it…and save for next spring,” Ericksen said.