Thanksgiving Point Institute is a 501(c)3 nonprofit farm, garden and museum complex that draws upon the natural world to cultivate transformative family learning. We have a presentation that the public expects us to maintain. Our property has trees and shrubs, turf and flowers—all with different water needs.

Our entire site is monitored by a central water control system where we can oversee daily watering. We are currently in the process of updating this process to make it more efficient, by giving us more control of turn off and on, through using an iPhone system application. As such, we adjust according to water needs and are not just watering automatically from pre-programmed sprinkler clocks. Our staff prioritizes our most visible display areas as most important and parking lots and outlying areas as minimally important when it comes to watering.

The process of water management started 17 years ago, when the Ashton Gardens were built and we are continually fine-tuning. From the beginning we were thinking water-wise management. As such, we recently applied for and received funding from the Institute of Museums and Library Services to create a one-acre Water Wise garden at the Ashton Gardens. This grant funding allowed us to transform an underused space into a garden to teach the community about water-wise plants and practices that thrive in Utah’s climate. The Water Wise garden currently contains 376 woody plants, 4,200 herbaceous plants, 19,600 spring bulbs – including tulips, 279 signs that teach the public about water-wise gardening and a kiosk fitted with brochures from our partner gardens, Central Utah Gardens at the Central Utah Water Conservancy District and the Conservation Garden Park at the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District, to allow guests to connect with our partners and learn even more about water-wise gardening. 

In addition to our new Water Wise garden, cultural practices also help us reduce our water use, and those include: Turf aeration, mulching reel mowers, adjusting mowing, height, and slow-release fertilizers. Top-dressing with bark and mulch holds in soil moisture. We do catch water run-off and it is recycled back into the system. Ornamental water in waterfalls and fountains is also recycled.

With a variety of guest experiences, water is an important theme in our operational focus and experience. We strive to become a sustainable nonprofit and community center for guests to engage in conversation around water topics. The importance of water is central to Utah communities and will always be an important focus in our operational and educational practices.