As the second driest state in the nation, Utahns are well aware of just how dry it can get without water.

However, 36 other states in the nation are expecting to face water shortages of their own in the next five years. To help all of those states, Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, has drafted legislation that would allocate funding for research and development of water conservation plans. If signed into law, this bill would also support demonstration programs that show citizens how they can conserve water in their own homes.

One such program is in West Jordan at the Conservation Garden Park at Jordan Valley. The park, located at 8215 S. 1300 West, was created by the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District.

Richard Bay, general manager and CEO at Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District, said the average Utahn used about one acre-foot of water per year — the equivalent of 320,000 gallons. Two-thirds of that water is used expressly for landscaping.

This park has been developed to demonstrate the possibilities that allow people to have a pleasant landscape around their home, while still conserving water. Two-and-a-half acres have been fully landscaped in several sections, each highlighting different landscaping themes and comparing the water usage for each.

Bay said there are minimal changes homeowners can make that would almost cut their water use in half — such as adjusting sprinkler settings so areas, such as flower beds, receive only what they need — without changing the landscaping. Smart systems can also be installed that sense when it has rained and water less, if at all.

Just these small changes can save 80,000 to 100,000 gallons per year, he said.

To take it one step further, there are a variety of landscape designs that can reduce or eliminate water use. Those are demonstrated at the park, with signs marking all the plants so that people know what they want to buy when they leave the park.

The second phase of the park is currently under construction. Upon completion this fall, the "how-to" garden will contain 24 educational exhibits that show people how to implement their own conservation gardens. Displays will include detailed help with planning and design, soils and soil amendment, mulches, watering methods and maintenance.

"This garden is a very effective way to educate people," said Matheson. "I think until people actually see this and see what you can accomplish in terms of landscaping with less water use, it is difficult for a lot of us to understand just what can be achieved, so I really commend the JVWCD for having the foresight in establishing this demonstration garden."

In addition to research and demonstration projects like the Conservation Garden Park, Matheson said the bill will also promote methods of sharing of information between entities, both nationally and locally.

"There's no reason to reinvent the wheel," he said. "We have a lot of smart people around the country trying to figure this out ...we should benefit from this as a country as well."

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