Jason Olson, Deseret News
Lloyd Gheen, left, listens as Jay Brems explains how to connect to a new irrigation system.

AMERICAN FORK — Residents will see a slight rise in water rates as American Fork's new pressurized irrigation system is implemented, but over time it will save big money, city officials say.

The city held a neighborhood open house this week to keep people informed about the system, which is under construction in some areas of the city.

In 2006, voters approved a $47 million obligation bond for a citywide, pressurized irrigation system. Now that the work has begun, people showed up to the open house to learn more about construction schedules, rates and how they can connect to the system.

"If we didn't do this system, we would have been back to a whole bunch of tanks, drilling wells, or we were going to have to build a treatment plant at the mouth of the canyon by taking the water and giving it to the citizens the most expensive way we could," said Howard Denney, director of public works for American Fork. "Instead, we have separated out the culinary use and the outdoor use, we believe we can give them the cheapest water we've got available to us."

The city has implemented new rates for both the culinary and irrigation systems in order to meet its financial obligations. The rate for irrigation water is $14 per month for lots up to 9,000 square feet and an additional $0.00175 for each square foot over 9,000. To start out, residents will see a slight bump in their rate, but Denney said that as they look to the future, it will be much more cost-effective to not be treating the water put on lawns.

The city offered an example of a homeowner with a one-fifth an acre lot who uses a total of 270,000 gallons. The bill for last year would have been $247. This year, if the resident stayed on the culinary system and had the same usage, it would cost $996. However, if the home uses both culinary and the pressurized irrigation, the combined total would be $336.

American Fork residents Don and Joanne Abel have used a mixture of ditch irrigation and a small amount of culinary to water their lawn and trees on their half-acre lot for years. They say they are anxious to see whether the new system will be as effective as what they have used in the past.

"We recognize the need for the change," said Don Abel. "So we are not fighting the decision. We are not overly excited, but on the other hand we will do our part to make it work."

Another concern for some has been the fact that residents have the responsibility to connect their system. The city will set up a hook-up, but the residents will have to do a few small procedures in order to completely tap into the system.

To ensure the safety of the city's culinary water, all properties are required to have an inspection to make sure that there will be no cross-contamination. Once the system is ready, residents will have to dig up and disconnect their stop and waste valve and then tie their sprinkling system into the new irrigation system.

Jay Brems, manager over pressurized irrigation for the public works department, says that the hook-up is not complicated, and he estimates that the cost of the equipment for it is around $100. He also said that several sprinkler companies in the area would most likely do the hook-up for around $200 to $250, depending on their workload.

Jessica Wilson is the public involvement specialist for the project, visiting homes to help answer questions. She said she gets eight to 10 calls a day about the project.

"Most of the people are excited for this, and they want to know when do they get theirs hooked up," Wilson said. "A lot of people call me and I tell them how to get to Costco or Wal-Mart because of some of the detours, but most of them just want their voice to be heard, and it is."

The goal is to have the project complete by spring 2010.


E-mail: ethomas@desnews.com