This story is part of The Salt Lake Tribune’s ongoing commitment to identify solutions to Utah’s biggest challenges through the work of the Innovation Lab. Sign up for our Solve for Wicked newsletter, about the lab’s quest to find solutions to the “wicked problems” facing Utah.
Gov. Spencer Cox announced Monday afternoon that the Salt Lake Chamber will facilitate a new program called Water Champion H2Oath, which calls on Utah businesses to publicly pledge to conserve water.
At a news conference in South Jordan, Cox said the pledge was created in response to the threat that record-setting drought poses to Utah.
A large proportion of the state’s water is utilized for landscaping, wrote David Hursey with the Salt Lake Chamber in a news release, “with little thought of conservation,” and businesses who participate in the program are asked to help change that.
“As with every problem we’ve had in the history of the state of Utah, we turn to our business community to partner to solve those problems,” the governor said. “You’ll see what’s possible from some of our partners — how we can make our buildings beautiful without excessive water, without having lush, green grass everywhere.”
Businesses that take the Water Champion H2Oath pledge to limit watering landscapes between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., update irrigation systems “so they are operating at maximum acceptable efficiency,” and install leak-detection technology for indoor and outdoor water use. Participating businesses are also asked to not run irrigation systems during rainy or windy weather.
Business leaders on Monday encouraged others to take the oath, and shared the steps their companies have taken to use less water.
The front lawn at Merit Medical Systems, where Monday’s news conference was held, looks less like a lawn and more like a rock garden. Fred Lampropoulos, Merit Medical’s president and CEO, said the company plans to replace all of its grass with such spaces in the next 90 days. He added that his own grass is brown, and that his family has cut down their water use by 50 percent.
“What the governor is telling you is serious,” Lampropoulos said. “And it means action not later on and not from someone else, but from you.”
Dave Petersen, president and CEO of O.C. Tanner, said his company has been “on a bit of a journey for water sustainability.” It has eliminated the need for 5,000 gallons of water used in the company’s manufacturing process, he said, and also cut the wastewater generated in the process by 88%.
“It’s been both a business [return on investment] as well as an environmental [return on investment],” he said. “That’s a great match, and our employees are pleased with it.”
Chris Gamvroulas, president of Ivory Development, noted that businesses in the housing industry that can influence homeowners to cut back on water use are helping to make housing more affordable overall.
In the first couple of years that Ivory pushed for water-wise landscaping, Gamvroulas said, “we had a lot of pushback on the market.” But by early 2020, the company made the switch to use water-wise landscaping for all the homes Ivory works on.
“This is not something that is easy to do, because there’s a lot of expectations,” he said. “But we believe that it’s important, not only for the sustainability of our state and the environment, but for sustainability and attainability and affordability of housing.”
In a news release, Salt Lake Chamber CEO Derek Miller labeled water as “a precious natural resource.”
“We know that how we manage water today will affect nearly every aspect of our future,” Miller said. “As Utah is experiencing an unprecedented drought, we must all do our part to protect and efficiently use the water supply.”
Utah businesses can take the Water Champion H2Oath on the Salt Lake Chamber’s website.