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Water district announces drought-related reductions

Smith and Morehouse Reservoir is one of seven in the water system that feeds the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District.
Ben Lasseter
Smith and Morehouse Reservoir is one of seven in the water system that feeds the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District.

With below average-snowfall and a historic drought, water providers will have less to deliver to Summit County residents this year.

For the last 30 years, the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District has usually stored about 200,000 acre-feet of water each year. Over the past two years, they’ve been hovering at or below 10% of that. This year, the district expects to store about 15,000 acre-feet, according to Weber Basin District Assistant Manager Jon Parry.

“We've really got to look at the situation and assure that at the end of this irrigation season, we have our drinking water supply in our reservoirs,” Parry says. “We're not willing to roll the dice in hopes that we have a better winter. We've been hoping for a better winner for the last, you know, three, four years, and they just really haven't come to fruition.”

This watering season, Parry says the district will provide 60% less water for outdoor use, 10% less indoor water and 40% less for agricultural use. The cutbacks are outlined in a drought contingency plan the district and stakeholders developed in 2018.

Weber Basin provides water directly to many households on the Wasatch Front. Most in Summit County, however, get water from local providers that set their own restrictions based on what they can deliver.

Only about 1/3 of Park City’s water comes from Weber Basin, according to Park City Water Resources Manager Jason Christensen. That means the city can draw from other sources to offset the impact of receiving less water from Weber Basin and the district isn’t expecting to match Weber Basin’s cuts. Residents who get water from Park City Municipal can expect voluntary recommendations to only water their lawns twice a week.

As Christensen explains, Park City is in a good position because it draws water from six sources other than Weber Basin. Those include runoff from Thaynes Canyon, which is expected to benefit from a slightly better snowpack than last year.

“The city believes that by rebalancing our water and by using water resources not impacted by those cuts, we can meet demand in partnership with the community if people are taking action on their outdoor irrigation,” Christensen says. “It’s a voluntary measure at this point.”

A drought ordinance Park City passed in 2008 requires mandatory restrictions on outdoor irrigation if water demand exceeds 85% of water supply. And city code only allows watering three times per week, even if there isn’t a drought.

Christensen encourages Park City residents to conserve water however possible.

The Summit Water Distribution Company, which services western Summit County, and the Mountain Regional Water Conservancy District, which services much of the Snyderville Basin, may take different approaches. Summit Water and Mountain Regional didn’t respond to KPCW’s request for comment in time for this report.