LDS Church cuts water use, says it’s heeding Utah guidelines for watering

Crews have removed a familiar fountain outside the Church Office Building as part of a landscaping makeover downtown.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) A view of the Church Office Building's plaza after the removal of a large fountain, Salt Lake City, June 2021. The Utah-based faith is reducing its water use to comply with state recommendations.

Responding to Utah’s drought conditions, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — presumably among the state’s largest private property owners — has cut its water use at church-owned properties.

The Salt Lake City-based faith believes that “the earth was divinely created and that we are to be stewards over all blessings the Lord has given us,” spokeswoman Kelly Smoot said in a statement.

To that end, the church has “reduced water usage for Temple Square landscaping,” Smoot said. “We are following the state’s recommendations to only water twice a week.”

As part of the makeover of the downtown square, the church also is overhauling the popular plaza south of the Church Office Building. Crews have removed a familiar fountain, which used circulating water, and will replace it with a display of world flags.

Beginning in the early 2000s, the church installed “waterwise” irrigation systems in all new facilities, “and we continue to retrofit older systems,” Smoot said. “We have adjusted these and all of our watering schedules to meet state guidelines. We also continue to personally monitor the conditions on our properties.”

Some have complained, including in a recent letter to The Salt Lake Tribune, of excessive watering continuing at individual church meetinghouses in Utah.

Latter-day Saint leaders say they also have reduced water use by a third at church historic sites in drought-affected regions.

The church’s environmental stewardship webpage points to its green-building initiatives, including the use of smart controllers, hydrometers, rain sensors, drip irrigation and secondary or reclaimed water.