Water cutbacks on horizon in Salt Lake, elsewhere

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Deseret News, Sunday, April 22, 2001

Water cutbacks on horizon in S.L., elsewhere

By Joe Bauman Deseret News staff writer

Salt Lake residents will be asked to voluntarily curtail lawn-watering through the late spring and summer, while mandatory restrictions will be placed on many water users from North Salt Lake to North Ogden.

Water managers believe these measures are needed because this year's snowpack is woefully skimpy. That means the spring runoff, source of much of the state's irrigation water and reservoir storage, is expected to be lower than usual.

It's not a crisis, they insist. But in the words of Ivan Flint, manager of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, "We pretty much have to rely on people to be patriotic enough to conserve."

In February, Salt Lake City officials received notice from the Provo River Water Users Association that the capital city will receive only 60 percent of its allocation from Deer Creek Reservoir, said LeRoy W. Hooton Jr., director of the city's Public Utilities Department. That is "a 40 percent cut," he noted.

The reservoir, located in Provo Canyon, is the city's single biggest source of water, Hooton said.

Since 1961 when the reservoir went into service, the city has always had its full allocation. But this year's reduction in supply "puts us in the problem area immediately," he said.

Hooton asked that city residents not water their lawns and gardens between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., when the water is most apt to evaporate. This would be a voluntary effort.

"We were first considering mandatory (restrictions), but that gets to be very complicated and a horrible police problem," he added.

In addition, he is asking that users of the city's water supply, including residents of the eastern section of unincorporated Salt Lake County, reduce outside watering by 20 percent in the period May through September.

"And we're planning other things," Hooton said. These include asking hotels and commercial establishments to reduce water use. "We think if we get the 20 percent reduction that we can make it," he said.

Studies by the Utah State University Extension Service show that "most people overwater by that amount. It's simply taking the waste out of our irrigation practices, being more efficient."

The scant snowfall affected northern Utah, while southern areas are normal. This was part of a regional pattern throughout the West that is likely to cause shortages elsewhere.

The Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, which serves Davis, Weber, Summit and Morgan counties and part of Box Elder County, is placing mandatory restrictions on water use. The district provides drinking water to every city and culinary water company from North Salt Lake to North Ogden, plus irrigators.

About 350,000 people use the district's culinary water service, and they will not have mandatory restrictions. But the district also services 40,000 users of what is termed secondary water, untreated water for lawns and gardens.

In addition, it provides farms with untreated agricultural water that flows through canals and an aqueduct. The district also provides industrial water.

Last year saw "one of the hottest, longest, driest summers," said Flint. "We used record amounts of water."

That was unfortunate, because the reservoirs did not fill the preceding winter. With that background, this past fall the district started with its reservoirs only about 35 percent full, compared with 50 percent holdover for a normal year.

"So we went into last fall short," he said. The district hoped for heavy snowfall during the winter of 2000-2001, but those hopes were dashed.

"All winter it's been very, very poor," Flint said.

As of late March, the snowpack was only 61 percent of normal. "The snowpack looked about as bad as it could. To guarantee that we'd have some kind of decent holdover this fall and not have to go into drastic measures, we decided to cut back."

This is the first year in the 27 that he has worked with the district where cutbacks are ordered.

According to Flint, secondary water users those who use untreated water for lawns and gardens are not to water outside between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

"We are going to police it and we are going to be very strict this year," Flint said. "People who abuse that will be subject to having their water cut off this season."

Violators will receive one warning, then if another violation is recorded, secondary water will be shut off.

Farmers were informed their water supplies would be reduced by 20 percent. "We can measure those and we will cut it 20 percent," he said.

However, culinary water the water supplied to most homes in the 39 cities and water companies supplied by the district will not be reduced, Flint said.

"We've just asked them to do their part."

E-mail: bau@desnews.com


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), April 22, 2001

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