A specially-created blend of grass called "SLC Turf Trade" uses at least 30% less water than others, while still looking green.
A specially-created blend of grass called "SLC Turf Trade" uses at least 30% less water than others, while still looking green.

SALT LAKE CITY  — The grass in the small park on the corner of Concord Street and California Avenue looks and feels just like any other lawn.

But the specially-created blend of grass called "SLC Turf Trade" uses at least 30% less water than others, while still looking green like it's watered daily (something you're absolutely not supposed to do in the drought).

"Even in the heat of the summer, once a week," Salt Lake City Water Conservation Manager Stephanie Duer told FOX 13 News while standing barefoot on the grass at the Concord Lift Station. "This is only getting watered once a week."

Duer worked with Utah State University and the Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance to create the special blend.

"I reached out to them provided them some criteria in terms of what we were looking for as an alternative to the traditional bluegrass lawn," she said. "And they identified this, which is a mixed blend. So there’s two different dwarf tall fescues, and then one bluegrass. And the bluegrass in here has actually been tested to be very low water bluegrass but it seeds up really quick which is why we wanted to include it."

Salt Lake City Public Utilities has started selling bags of the grass seed blend to its customers — at cost — to encourage people to try it out. People can buy it for $8.50 a bag, which will cover 1,000 square feet. To install SLC Turf Trade, you will have to kill your existing lawn. But the grass seed is designed to grow quickly in the dead thatch of the old lawn.

In the two weeks since bags of SLC Turf Trade have been on sale, word is spreading quickly. Duer said she's close to running out and plans to order more for fall and spring planting. Salt Lake City Public Utilities customers who want to get some can order online and pick it up at a city facility. Utilities is tracking who's buying it to measure overall water and cost savings.

"If you don’t want a lawn? Cool. There’s lots of wonderful ways to landscape your space. But if you want some lawn, there’s a great lawn you can choose, save water and still provide a nice place for the kids to play, for you picnic on, for the dog to run around on," she said.

Water managers statewide are noticing residential water conservation is increasing as Utah's mega-drought continues.

"In the major population areas, we’re seeing water reductions between 5 and 27%, Which really equates to billions of gallons of water being saved," said Candice Hasenyager, the director of Utah's Division of Water Resources.

Data provided to FOX 13 News by the division shows increased voluntary water conservation across the state. For example, the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District has documented 1.05 billion gallons of water saved over last year's savings. Interest in turf buyback programs in its service area in the Salt Lake Valley has jumped 69%.

The Washington County Water Conservancy District has documented 11.5 million more gallons saved this year, while recording a 4.6% increase in water hookups as a result of growth. Cities across Washington County passed a series of strict new ordinances on landscaping this year. The water district estimates that will ultimately translate into billions of gallons of water savings over the next 10 years.

The Weber Basin Water Conservancy District has recorded a 27% decline in water demand this year alone, equating to additional savings. Salt Lake City Public Utilities has documented 2.5 billion gallons in water saved just by residents voluntarily conserving this year as compared to the last three years in light of the ongoing drought and peril facing the Great Salt Lake. That eliminates the need for stringent water restrictions, Duer said.

"Our service area is doing fabulously," she added.

Hasenyager said conservation is stretching water for Utahns to use in the ongoing drought. Longer-term solutions being explored include increased changes to landscaping and water use reductions in future planning. Agriculture is being prodded to use more water-saving technology.

Water saved today means water for residents tomorrow, she said.

"Any water we don’t use is either stored in our reservoirs or our groundwater. Then it’s available for future use. In addition it can increase instream flows and lake levels depending on where they’re at in the state and where the conservation savings are occurring," she said.

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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