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Summit County Looks At Water Strategies For A Drought Summer


Given the unprecedented drought facing the state of Utah and Summit County, Development Director Pat Putt says that for the near future, he’s taking three major steps to change the county’s use of water resources.  

Putt says that was the direction he got from the County Council after their recent brainstorming session.   

During his recent report to KPCW, Pat Putt said his first goal is to sit down with the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, and with all the water companies in the county.    He said there are more than 60 in operation, including both year-round and seasonal.

Next, they will look at code amendments for landscaping, xeriscaping and alternative forms of outdoor watering.     Putt said in the Snyderville Basin, there is a fairly robust landscaping ordinance, but it just applies to commercial uses and multi-family housing.

On the East Side, there are no water-related code regulations for landscaping.

However, Putt said that given the comments from East Side residents at the council discussion, he believes there is support there to restrict water use.

“What people do in terms of improving their homes, their lots with their landscaping, obviously there’s a very personal choice.  But they recognize the impacts of irrigation water, secondary water, the amount of water that’s going onto lawns.  And it’s impacting the overall culinary sources.”

The third prong of his strategy, he said, is to work with other county departments, such as Communications and Sustainability, to get out some quick, effective messaging on water use.

In response to water shortages, the cities of Oakley and Henefer have adopted building moratoriums.    KPCW asked if that’s an option the County Council would consider.      

“The Council last Wednesday didn’t suggest that.  I didn’t hear the word moratorium.   But I think what they wanna do is before they would get to that step, they want to be able to develop a fact-based approach on how we’re going to manage this.   And I think that starts with bringing the most key stakeholders into the discussion.  I don’t think the council wants to make rough, quick decisions without having a better understanding of where we are.”

County Development Director Pat Putt.

Council Member Malena Stevens told KPCW that their discussion also looked at the challenges of lawns.    

“It was stated by Council Member Clyde, who has pretty extensive knowledge in this area, that the lawn spaces that we have actually take more water than growing a field, because when we cut them, their roots can’t get as deep.  And so they’re really only getting water from the top.   So they soak up a lot more water that way.  And so for those lawns that are not being used, which I would say would be many of the lawns within front yards, sometimes in back yards, that those spaces are taking up some of our water, our culinary water, unnecessarily.”

During the meeting, one citizen asked if the county officials are so concerned about water, why are they approving more density.     In response, Stevens said there are a couple of factors to consider there.       

“And a lot of the density that we’re looking at currently are existing entitlements.  And so there are different legal regulations surrounding that.  Also, with the water companies, they have to ensure that they can service those new developments as part of the process.   If it gets to the point where they’re not able to service those developments, then we would be having a different conversation.”

Summit County Council Member Malena Stevens.


Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.
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