Fox 13 investigates SLC’s top water users, finds dramatic reductions

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The three biggest water users in Salt Lake City from 13 years ago are still the biggest water users today, though all three are much smaller water users.

Confused?

FOX 13 used government records requests in 2002 and this year to see who was using the most water in Utah's capitol city.

In 2002, the top users were city golf courses, the University of Utah and the Tesoro Refinery.

In 2015 the top three were the same.

But those top water users are using a lot less water.

Salt Lake City public golf courses have reduced their use by about 30 percent, from 630 million gallons of water per year back then to 430 million gallons now.

And the University of Utah is doing even better.

"We have a sense of urgency to conserve water," said Myron Willson, the director of the University of Utah Office of Sustainability.

The university used 914 million per year during the last drought.

This time around, the university is using 481 million gallons per year. That's a 47 percent reduction.

They've done it with an advanced irrigation system hooked to weather monitoring, and to drought-tolerant landscaping. They have also installed water conserving plumbing fixtures in all new and remodeled buildings.

And Tesoro refinery has cut their water consumption even more, from 1.082 billion gallons per year in 2002 to 562 million gallons now. That's 48 percent less water.

But perhaps most impressive is the place that abandoned our list completely.

Utah's Hogle Zoo was Salt Lake City's fifth biggest water user in 2002.

Today, they're too far down the list to make it onto the information we got through our records request.

"That's fantastic!" said Liz Larsen, the Conservation Director at the Zoo.

Larsen said that Hogle Zoo's new exhibits all have huge water features but they all use modern filtration to continue using the same water. They used to "flush and flow" in the old days, Larsen said.

In 2002, we reported their use at 101 million gallons. Last year, they used 35 million gallons, a 65 percent decrease. ​

FOX 13 News took a look at the impact of agriculture and ranching on Utah's water supply, including details about how much water is lost in transit along canals. Click here for part two of the investigation.