SALT LAKE CITY — Bills dealing with turf, landscaping and water conservation are moving through the Utah State Legislature.

On Wednesday, lawmakers gave final passage to House Bill 11, a water conservation bill sponsored by Rep. Doug Owens, D-Millcreek.

The bill was modified from its original goal to restrict turf on new government construction after objections from turf farmers, Sen. Ron Winterton, R-Roosevelt, told his Senate colleagues. So instead, the bill was modified to allow turf, but to prohibit sprinkler systems and require drip irrigation to water it.

In an interview with FOX 13 News, Rep. Owens said the new version of the bill accomplished the same goal of water conservation.

"It covers new government construction so schools, city, county buildings and any new road construction being done by any of those entities," he said. "They’ve got to use water-efficient drip systems for parking strips or center medians and stuff like that."

A bill offering incentives to developers to use water-wise landscaping is also winning support. Senate Bill 118, sponsored by Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, won unanimous approval in the Senate last week and will be considered by a House committee on Thursday.

Chris Gamvroulas, the president of Ivory Homes, said his company is doing more "localscaping," where native plants are used and lawn is only installed in areas where it would be used (like a home's backyard). At first, homebuyers weren't interested in it, he said, but more are embracing it as a way to do their part to help Utah's water situation.

The incentives help developers, Gamvroulas added, because localscaping is more expensive. But they are documenting water savings.

"We've done 2,700 homes since 2019. The cumulative effect of that in 2023 was 150 million gallons of water saved, cumulatively," he told FOX 13 News. "It’s like compounding interest. It just continues to grow as we continue to roll it out."

There are a series of bills moving through the legislature to help with water conservation and protecting the Great Salt Lake, which dropped to its lowest level in recorded history in 2022. Lawmakers have been trying to reverse the lake's declines while grappling with growth in the state.

Fox 13 Reporter
Ben Winslow is FOX 13's reporter on Capitol Hill covering a wide variety of topics including politics, polygamy, vice and courts. He has been in the news business in Utah for more than 20 years now, working in radio, newspaper, television and digital news. Winslow has received numerous honors for his reporting, including a national Edward R. Murrow award; the Religion Newswriters Association Local TV News Report of the Year; the Utah Broadcaster's Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. Readers of Salt Lake City Weekly and Q Salt Lake have named him their "Best TV news reporter" for many years now. He co-hosts "Utah Booze News: An Alcohol Policy Podcast," covering the state's often confusing and quirky liquor laws. Winslow is also known for his very active Twitter account keeping Utahns up-to-date on important news.

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