Heber Residents And Officials Discuss Water At Town Hall
Heber City held a town hall last Thursday to address questions about local water use.
To begin the meeting, Heber City planner Tony Kohler said Wasatch County is in the extreme drought status. He also presented a map that showed the county is one of the two highest in the state for water use per capita. Members of the panel said one reason for the high water use per capita is the amount of farming irrigation there.
His presentation led to discussions about how water allocation works in the area, reasons to conserve and concerns about drought in the future.
Resident Tracy Taylor asked the city to share a 10- to 20-year plan for water conservation. She said she feared more drought years in the decade to come would continue to force reservoir levels down.
“As you mentioned, the trends don’t look good. I mean, I think we can all say, maybe, if we’re lucky, five of those years might be above average, and maybe another three are average – I don’t know if we’re ever going to catch up. I think as a community, we look to you guys to go, ‘We need a plan,’” she said.
She added that her concerns are heightened because of ongoing and potential development projects that could add demand to the water system.
Russell Funk, assistant city engineer, said the city does have a conservation plan, which is updated every five years. The last update was in 2016, and he said the next one will add focus on restricting usage during extreme drought periods.
Mayor Kelleen Potter said the city is limited in its power to prohibit development. The city can only place a moratorium on building for six months maximum, according to state law. To do so, the city would have to demonstrate a “compelling, countervailing public interest.”
Kohler said the city’s motivation to conserve water is not primarily those developments.
“Another question that’s been posed recently is, ‘Why should we conserve water? Aren’t you just making me save water so a developer can come in and use that water?’ And the answer is no, the real reason is we want to avoid costs,” he said.
He said the costs the city wants to avoid include needs for new sources, storage and treatment facilities, as well as energy and labor costs.
As for what the city is doing to limit water consumption?
Heber City residents have been encouraged to limit watering to twice a week. However, multiple special service districts require this where water sources are producing as low as 60% of normal flow. That’s what Max Covey of the North Village Special Service District said.
According to Funk, the city invests about 400 to $500,000 each year in the water conservation plan. Details of the plan were not discussed at length during the town hall.
He said according to this plan, the current local water supply doesn’t warrant severe action yet. If the drought gets much worse, he said the city will explore making more changes.
One project on the horizon is to install secondary water meters at residents’ homes. Panel members could not say when precisely that will come guessed within five years.
According to a recent study, just installing meters that allow water users to know how much they consume can lead to 20-30% decreases in output. That’s according to Rick Maloy of the Central Utah Water Conservancy District.
Asked by a resident how that would change how water is distributed in town, Mayor Potter said that would be a future decision for the city council. She and Funk offered their opinions that residents should pay amounts based on how much they consume.