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Snyderville Commission considers plight of water scarcity

Snyderville Basin Planning Commission

          Snyderville Planning Chair Thomas Cooke told KPCW that we’ve just lived through a summer of drought, dried-up reservoirs and water restrictions.

He said the planning commission also heard from Mountain Regional Water District Manager Scott Morrison that 2020 was the state’s driest year on record since the late 1800’s. And after the winter of 2020 to 2021, snowpack was at only 50 percent of normal by May.

Cooke said the Snyderville Commission has been studying revisions to the General Plan over the past year. That includes possible code changes governing landscaping.

The staff proposed a change at Tuesday’s meeting.

          “Basically, staff came back and said, ‘We think it’s important that we have, rather than just write some code, that people are scratching their heads and not sure if it’s actually gonna do anything, let’s bring some experts in and talk about the need for this.’   And the direction that we’re going is—I don’t know what we’re calling it, and when I say we I think council is gonna be involved and staff and planning commission but—to form a water committee that looks at these issues with a broader perspective.”

          Cooke said the committee will likely include a couple of members each from the Summit County Council and the Snyderville Commisison, and representatives of water entities, such as Scott Morrison.

Water use will probably be a topic as the planning commissioners meet with the council on December 15th.

The options could include a ‘turf-buy-back’ program, which Cooke said has been utilized around the country.

He said they’re looking for solutions that can apply to existing residences and also new development.

          “We want to make sure that we’re doing things that are effective.   And so, if a high percentage of our water usage is outdoor water usage for landscaping it seems common sense to look at what our regulations are now for existing water users, but also for new construction, right?   So if we can impose something that makes sense on anything new that gets built going forward—the turf buy-back would be an example of something that would apply obviously to people who already have turf, right?, whether it’s commercial properties or home owners.  And it would be an incentive to voluntarily cut down on outdoor landscaping water usage.”

          He said continued development could pose a dilemma.

          “The rhetorical question is, what happens if approvals of new development outstrip the water capacity.   The simple answer is we have to find a way to get more water, right?    And so as Mr. Morrison outlined, then you look at water storage, adding water, water source and storage projects.  And that brings a cost to everybody.  It’s expensive to do that.”

          Snyderville Planning Chair Thomas Cooke.

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.