RIVERTON — Citing increasing drought conditions and excessive water use, Riverton officials are asking residents and businesses to cut their water use by at least 25 percent.
If they don't, city officials said they may be forced to consider ways to limit water — whether that means metering or fees.
But Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs said city officials hope residents will heed their warning and do their part to conserve.
"We really prefer the choice of self-regulation," Staggs said Wednesday.
City officials issued an announcement Wednesday, warning that if residents continue using water at their current pace, the city will run into trouble.
“We realize this may be an inconvenience for some people, but the conditions are such that we are going to have a real problem if we don’t immediately begin to reduce our water use,” Riverton City Manager Konrad Hildebrandt said in a prepared statement. “This conservation request is going to take a concerted effort and a change in habits.”
Staggs said the secondary water system's maximum capacity is supposed to be about 20 million gallons a day, but residents are using upward of 34 million gallons a day.
"Residents are using almost twice as much water on their lawns as they should be for the price they're paying," Staggs said.
In Riverton, every residential address has access to secondary water for a flat monthly rate based on lot size — a service that most cities don't provide, Staggs noted. That means secondary water is not metered in the city, which is likely the cause of excessive consumption, city officials said.
“People generally don’t know how much water they are actually using to keep their lawns green," said Scott Hill, the city's water director. "It’s more than you might think and we need everyone to cut back in Riverton.
“We know people want to keep their lawns green this time of year, but the fact is, if a lawn is totally green right now, it is being over-watered," he continued. "Brown spots are going to show up, and we all need to get comfortable with that.”
City officials said Riverton's water system is currently operating above recommended capacity, causing water pressure variation in certain areas of the city.
The system is capable of accommodating all recommended water needs from Riverton’s growing population but was not designed to accommodate excessive use from individual users, city officials said.
“Just turning back your sprinkler clock five minutes overall will help with the situation," Hildebrandt said. "Everyone in Riverton needs to do their part to ensure that we are conserving water and using what we have in a responsible way."
City officials said as of Wednesday, the 25 percent cut in water use is voluntary. But should the water situation worsen and residents don't begin to limit their water use, officials say they will "evaluate what additional options may be available to curb excessive use."
Staggs said that could mean taking out another bond to expand the city's water system or spending $8 million to put meters on secondary water systems and increased fees — but he said he would rather not resort to that.
"If our residents want to continue this high utilization of water, then I think the governing body's going to have to take a look at those options," Staggs said, adding that he's been "really hesitant to contemplate that" because he has trust in residents to self-regulate.
"We've asked in the past for these things," the mayor said, noting that residents have heeded warnings whenever algal blooms or other scares affect their secondary water. "Our residents really step up and take on the challenge to conserve, so I have no reason to believe or doubt our residents. We have fantastic residents."
Riverton officials have begun to take measures to cut back watering on the city's 473 acres of city parks and other green space. The state recommends about 1.83 inches of water per week this time of year, and the city is averaging about 1.5 inches a week on city green space, officials said.