Washington Co. cities pass strict landscaping ordinances in drought

ST. GEORGE, Utah — Cities across Washington County have passed a series of strict ordinances on landscaping and water use, hoping to save billions of gallons of water in the ongoing drought.

The ordinances collectively have been advanced by St. George, Washington City, Santa Clara, Ivins and Hurricane, which represent about 80% of the county’s entire population.

The Washington County Water Conservancy District said they are among some of the strictest in Utah.

For example, new commercial businesses will be banned from installing grass at all (unless they seek a special exception). Instead, desert-friendly landscaping will be required. New residential areas being built will only be allowed to have 8% grass in a yard.

St. George has prohibited the construction of any new golf courses unless the developer can provide their own non-potable source of water for irrigation. Secondary water and reclaimed water will be demanded for any outdoor irrigation in the future.

Zachary Renstrom, the general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District, told FOX 13 News that the ordinances will help in the ongoing drought. Washington County is one of the fastest growing places in the entire nation.

“It’s going to save billions of gallons of water. Especially as our community continues to grow,” he said. “The water savings is going to be significant. It’s not just a one time saving. It’s going to set how we save water here in southern Utah.”

The new ordinances do not apply to existing businesses and homes. However, the state has funded incentives for Washington County residents to ditch their lawns for desert-friendly landscaping, the water district said. Those will go into effect later this year.

Governments across Washington County have started ripping up their own lush lawns, which hog water, to set an example to residents.

The district said that all of Washington County’s major population centers are currently dependent on a single water source — the Virgin River Basin. In a statement announcing the ordinances, the district said it is reaching its full development capacity in a region that has seen drought the last 16 years.

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