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Wednesday, 08 July 2015 17:11

Conservation Effort Aims to Curb Water Usage, Save Money

Canyons District is doing its part to curb its water usage, thanks to forward thinking, a team of high school students, and a grant from the Central Utah Water Conservancy District.

As a limited resource, like electricity and natural gas, it’s always important to save water, says Canyons’ Energy Specialist Christopher Eppler. But Utah’s recent dry winter has amplified the need to apply water conservation techniques across the state, as evidenced by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s recent executive order that requires state agencies to institute water conservation practices.

Under Eppler’s direction, Canyons has already been working to make each school more energy efficient. The District’s electricity and gas bills are the same as they were six years ago, for example, despite increasing prices in the industry. Now, Eppler is looking to bring the same savings and conservation efforts to Canyons’ water usage with a team of students trained in irrigation techniques from California Polytechnic State University, San Louis Obispo.

“It’s not as difficult as it may seem to conserve,” Eppler says. “Most of the time, it’s not uncommon to take an elementary school and cut the water in half for what they need to water the turf.”

In order to initiate Canyons’ water conservation program, Eppler needed eyes on the ground to monitor each school, go through each irrigation system, examine each sprinkler head, implement proper watering cycles and ensure that the systems continue to function optimally. He received a $15,000 grant from the CUWCD to hire seven Canyons students to do just that.

The students, which include three recent graduates from Jordan and Alta High schools, participated in an eight-week after-school specialized training program to learn information from Cal Poly's Irrigation Training and Research Center to prepare for their work with Eppler this summer. They work four days a week, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., making their way through the District one sprinkler head at a time.

“Our goal is to get one school done completely, get it under control, then move to another,” Eppler said.  In just one recent work week, the team addressed the needs at five schools. In each case, the team is making sure the sprinklers are functioning correctly, taking note of the correct nozzles and heads to have in supply for custodians, and ordering replacements for broken parts.

They also determine watering schedules based on the root zone, type of grass, shade, soil type, and evaporation rate. By calculating how much water is evaporating from the soil and programming the system to water only that amount, the District can keep the grass green and healthy and save millions of gallons of water.

“We’re watering it properly, not overwatering,” Eppler said. “That is the goal. The goal is never to make it look brown, the goal is to make sure it looks the same and in good health and strong so when the kids are playing soccer it weathers well.”

DID YOU KNOW? 
  • Canyons School District has approximately 370 acres of turf to maintain.
  • One inch of water on 370 acres requires 10,046,980 gallons per day.
  • An evaporation rate of .58 inches of water per day means Canyons could be irrigating 5,827,238 gallons each night in the hottest part of the summer.
  • Canyons water usage is going down. In July 2014, the District used 16.5 million gallons less than in July 2012 and 9.5 million gallons less than in July 2013. 
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