Skip to main content

Davis Journal

County looking for ways to conserve water in wake of governor’s emergency declaration

May 06, 2022 10:34AM ● By Becky Ginos

Construction of the grounds at the Memorial Courthouse in Farmington is nearing completion. Due to drought conditions, the county will hold off on laying turf in the dirt areas for now. Photo by Roger V Tuttle

(Editor’s Note—This is one of our continuing series of stories as part of our Davis Journal Water Watchers series)

FARMINGTON—Gov. Spencer Cox declared a state of emergency April 21 due to the dire drought conditions facing the state. Here in Davis County, the commissioners are also looking for ways to conserve water.

“An executive declaration of emergency gives him the extra ability to navigate this,” said Commissioner Lorene Kamalu. “I understand why he did that. It’s turned into a big deal. I attended water school last fall with 20 officials from across the state. I thought I knew a lot about water but I learned more.”

This is on everyone’s mind and it’s been on the county’s mind for years, she said. “We oversee all of the facilities except the Sheriff’s Office. A few years ago we were told by our facilities director Lane Rose that the outside water system was old and needed to be replaced. He researched it and went with something different. It has soil moisture sensors that combine with tech so that not only doesn’t it water when it rains but it tells you how the soil is doing in the heat of the day depending on the type of soil.”

It goes back to being water conservation minded, said Kamalu. “There are two things that help, aerating and putting peat moss where the turf tends to get really scorched so that it retains water longer.”

Utah is the second driest state, she said. “Overall for the last 20 years there has been a decline in the snowpack. Water is pretty complex in Utah. It’s not one agency that oversees it all. The pioneers prepared the way with reservoirs and all that work is benefiting us, but more must be done. We need to do better as a state. We actually have to landscape for the climate we have and combine that with growth.”

This is a wake up call, Kamalu said. “We probably all should have functional turf and less non-functional turf. Functional turf is what we use and need. Non-functional turf is not really being used but we still mow it and have it. We must change our ways in Utah.”

Kamalu said she was born and raised in Utah but lived in Indiana for a time. “We didn't have irrigation water. Our lawn wasn’t as green as the neighbor’s but it was nice. When we moved back to Utah in 1996 we had to learn how to deal with water and landscaping. When we built our second house we created a lot of areas without turf.”

The memorial courthouse and campus reconstruction is underway. “It was designed two years before the severe drought,” she said. “It was designed as a gathering place. There are xeriscaped planter boxes but there are a lot of turf areas. It will be used not only by Farmington but the entire county. It will be a wonderful plaza.”

Before moving forward, Kamalu said the commissioners wanted input from the Weber Basin Conservancy director over landscaping. “If we put turf down it won’t survive watering just once a week. It will die. This is an asset for county residents and it would be foolish to let it die then spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to replace it. We need to be a wise steward of taxpayers’ money.”

So they decided that turf is not going to go down – at least not for now. “We’re going to put a plastic covering that will keep the dust and weeds down in those areas that would have been turf until the drought goes down,” she said. “We’ve considered artificial turf but that may not make sense. We don’t know how long that will last before it needs to be replaced. It could be too hot so you might not even be able to have your shoes off.”

Kamalu said they’ll wait to see what happens with the drought. “We’ll postpone putting anything down right now.”

A year ago the county looked at some of the old buildings that have more traditional landscaping, she said. “Some of them are 50 years old. USU extension has some plans for water hungry places like the Layton Library. We’ll be redesigning those.”

This is hard for everyone, said Kamalu. “I’m told that most people are being cooperative and are doing the right thing. That’s a good sign that people are wanting to make the changes they can. We all need to do our part.” λ