SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Rural Water Association of Utah recently awarded the city an efficiency award for implementing a secondary water metering system that decreased irrigation water usage by 30 percent.

Mayor Jim Miller said in a statement the award “shows the ingenuity of city staff and our commitment” to be good stewards over limited water resources.

The cost of installing the 4,000 meters throughout the city was approximately $3.6 million, which was funded through a bond that will be repaid for through the revenues generated by metering secondary water.

During the first year of implementation, citywide irrigation water usage by residents and businesses decreased from nearly 1 billion gallons in 2015 to less than 800 million gallons in 2016 — a 21 percent decrease —despite increased growth in the city. Even more telling was the average usage per customer, which decreased by 27 percent among residents and businesses.

To encourage residents and businesses to lower their water usage, the city switched from a flat-rate system where all users were charged the same fee, regardless of the amount of water used, to a tiered system that charged customers in thousand-gallon increments, based on lot size, landscaped area and the water rights allocated to each property. In addition, the city lowered the base rate that is charged each month to cover fixed costs.

As a result, customers that maintained monthly irrigation water usage at or below their specified water allotment saw a decrease in their monthly bill.