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Park City’s Average Water Use Was Down Over 1 Million Gallons During July 4th Holiday


With Utah experiencing historic levels of drought this summer, water restrictions have been put in place across the state -- including here in the Wasatch Back. Although the situation is still serious, Park City used much less water than it did one year ago over the Fourth of July holiday.


Utah Governor Spencer Cox issued an executive order in March -- and again in May -- declaring a state of emergency due to extreme drought conditions throughout the state. He also reduced state-controlled watering and encouraged Utahns to do their part to conserve water at their homes. 


It appears, at least locally, that message got through. Water usage has been down in Park City since the summer began.  


The Fourth of July has traditionally been Park City’s peak water period, using 8.5 million gallons per day on average. That demand was down considerably over the holiday this year, said city Water Resources Manager Jason Christensen. 


“We can’t say whether we’ve hit the peak yet for this year, but around July 4th, we saw a demand of 7 million gallons, so that’s a 1.5 million gallon reduction over what we’d expect to see,” Christensen said. “We believe a large part of that is the community responding to these drought messages, responding to the governor’s executive order, responding to the city’s messaging that, you know, this is a serious and exceptional drought and the community has taken steps, the golf course has taken steps, and parks have taken steps to help meet that challenge that we face this year.”


Due to a drier than average winter and a reduced snowpack, many of Utah’s reservoirs are currently at record low levels. Summit County’s Rockport Reservoir only saw 3% of its usual snowmelt this spring.


The Weber Basin Water Conservancy District is a wholesale water provider to Summit County and Park City and has implemented a 20% reduction in outdoor water use for its customers. People who do not comply with the regulation run the risk of getting their water shut off.


District General Manager and COO Darren Hess told KPCW in June most people don’t realize how much water it actually takes to water their lawn. 


“People just don’t understand how much water they deliver to their outdoor landscapes,” said Hess. “When individuals water one time, through one irrigation cycle of their sprinkler system, they water about 3,000-4,000 gallons. That’s over half the water they use indoors for a full month. When people understand how much water they’re putting on their landscapes, if we can reduce that watering one time a week and go down to twice a week, you can see how that savings adds up.”


When it comes to the biggest water users in Park City, Christensen said facilities like golf courses, recreational fields, and hotels are at the top of the list when it comes to the number of gallons used on a regular basis.


“It depends on uses and how you break that down,” he said. “Obviously, the golf courses in town are large users because you just have a huge concentration of turf grass in a high desert environment, so they’re a big user. I wouldn’t want to call anyone out and say they are the largest users because we have large hotels, other groups that also are big users of water in Park City.”


Christiansen added that public safety is the most important consideration when protecting water reserves. Water providers also work closely with fire departments to ensure there is enough water to respond to any emergencies. 


What’s important now, said Christensen, is managing the city’s reserves so they last until temperatures cool down, demand decreases, and precipitation picks up in the fall.  

Sean Higgins covers all things Park City and is the Saturday Weekend Edition host at KPCW. Sean spent the first five years of his journalism career covering World Cup skiing for Ski Racing Media here in Utah and served as Senior Editor until January 2020. As Senior Editor, he managed the day-to-day news section of skiracing.com, as well as produced and hosted Ski Racing’s weekly podcast. During his tenure with Ski Racing Media, he was also a field reporter for NBC Sports, covering events in Europe.
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