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Official Water Restrictions Could Hit Summit County As Council Plans Future Discussions

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ASSOCIATED PRESS
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  Restricting water use has been at the forefront of discussions throughout Utah as the state sees the worst drought in decades. Summit County will be joining the conversation in the next couple weeks. 

Summit County has recommended residents reduce watering their yards to twice weekly. But it hasn’t placed restrictions on public or private water systems yet, leaving the decision on how to limit water use up to local municipalities and water utility companies. 

Many cities and towns in Summit County have set up water restrictions. On the East side, municipalities like Francis and Kamas have limited the time of day and number of days residents can water. Similar restrictions are in place in Park City. 

Unincorporated areas are following the restrictions set by water utility companies. However, those restrictions vary based on the company. 

Summit County Community Development Director Pat Putt said the county will start discussions on water restrictions in the beginning of July, which could create a uniform policy. 

Mountain Regional Water, The Health Department’s Sustainability team and Summit County Community Development will sit at the table with the county council. Putt says they want to outline the severity of the drought and what tools the council can use for educational outreach. 

"Resources are strained, and will become more constrained as we move forward," Putt said. "I think the key opportunity here is to get out in front of this as fast as we can."

But how serious is the current drought in Summit County? 

The county gets its water largely from the Weber Basin Conservation District. Mountain Regional General Manager Scott Morrison said water levels are way below average this year. 

"Weber on an average year - from what I understand - stores about 220,000 acre feet of water," Morrison said. "As a result of the runoff, this year, they stored 7,000 acre feet. So what that means is, I think we can expect the reservoirs, our local reservoirs, we can expect those storage levels to continue to decline, which is concerning."

Beaver/Shingle Creek Irrigation Company provides water to areas in the East side of the county like Kamas, Francis and Marion. Company Secretary Scott Simpson said his service area has received ? less water than usual. 

Without any more rain and at the current rate, he said the company will run out of water by July, and then have to move to stock water, which is typically used on livestock. 

Putt said new restrictions from the county could affect public entities like cities and private entities like water companies. 

"But my understanding is, under an emergency order the county Summit County Council would have the authority to place restrictions on these public and private systems," he said. "That hasn't happened, there hasn't been the decision to make that step. Before we make that step, we want to make sure that we have the right people part of the dialogue as early as possible."

If the county puts more restrictions in place, water companies will know if customers are complying. Morrison said Mountain Regional has a monitoring system. 

"We get reports, data uploads basically once a day, so the monitor regional team has visibility to exactly how much water our customers are using, and what time of the day it's being used," he said. "So we can use that information to run reports to understand, you know, those customers who are in compliance and those who are not."

He said first-time offenders are sent a warning, and repeat offenders see escalating fees. 

But Putt said he hopes the county can focus on the educational aspect before they have to measure water usage.

"Nobody wants to be driving around being punitive and being water police," he said. "Long before we get to that point, I think we want to make sure everybody kind of grasps the severity of the situation that we're in."

He said future conversations in the county could include water companies as well as other key stakeholders like homeowners associations and the general public.

 

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