Water conservation

Tree ring study shows local drought worst since Dust Bowl and 1630s, water supplier says

Sitting at a large table in a conference room, executives from the largest water providers in the Snyderville Basin presented a report Monday evening on the state of the local water supply.

The drought was a constant backdrop to their comments. Darren Hess, assistant general manager of the Weber Basin Water Conservation District, discussed cuts from Weber Basin, including those for indoor drinking water. A Park City official said the city would lead by example in reducing water use, and the Mountain Regional Water District described its drought reserve fund and other steps it was taking to conserve water. water.

All of the water companies, including the Summit Water Distribution Company, discussed the importance of planning for the future, but said they had enough water to meet demand.

Hess said Weber Basin has worked with researchers to study historical water levels by examining tree rings dating back to the Middle Ages. The results appeared to show that water storage in 2022 was at a level not seen since the Dust Bowl in the 1930s and, before that, the 1630s, apparently another very dry period.

“We really want to be careful with our water resources, use them appropriately, make sure we have water left to drink next year in case we find ourselves in a similar situation,” Hess said. . “We certainly cannot sell ourselves short in terms of drinking water supplies for next year, in case the drought persists.”

Park City Director of Public Works Clint McAffee said city sources are expected to meet demand in the future. And that’s assuming demand continues to grow. McAffee said water usage in Park City is going down.

“And so one thing to note is that last year, 2021, was, I think, the second or third lowest year out of the 22 data points that we have here,” McAffee said. “So the demand is decreasing both on a yearly basis and on a peak day basis.”

Jason Christensen, the city’s water resources manager, said the reduction was likely helped by the city’s efforts to promote water conservation. Christensen said those efforts include measuring and monitoring water use, detecting leaks and charging a surcharge for water if more is used.

He also said the city is asking residents to limit watering to twice a week. A municipal ordinance already limits watering to every two days.

“We will also set an example with the city’s facilities. So there will be brown spots on the municipal golf course and various lawns maintained by the city,” Christensen said. “It’s not because our team doesn’t want to keep this green. It’s because they recognize the severity of the drought we’re in right now.”

The audience asked two questions about incentives to convert lawns to grass into less water-intensive landscaping. Lisa Hoffman, Mountain Regional’s assistant general manager, said the district has earmarked funds for an incentive program. But she suggested the district might need to use its drought reserve fund to help offset losses from customers buying less water.

According to the May Water Supply Outlook from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, water levels are near normal for the hydrological year that began in October, but are not high enough to offset past deficits. .

The soils are wetter than normal, however, and scientists hope this will mean more water will flow into the reservoirs than it will return to the soil. The report said the state’s reservoirs are 58% full, down 10% from the same time last year.