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Front Page » February 10, 2009 » Carbon County News » Water supply fluctuates across state
Published 2,116 days ago

Water supply fluctuates across state


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By LYNNDA JOHNSON
Sun Advocate editor

Utah ranks as the second driest state in the nation. Although drought conditions have mitigated in recent years, fluctuating water supplies remains a major concern for Carbon County residents in particular and 2.6 million Utahns in general.

The Palmer Drought Index classifies the extremely dry conditions experienced statewide in 1977, 1988 and 2002 as more severe than the "dust bowl days" of the 1930s, noted foundation researchers. There appears to be a cyclical nature to the occurrence of droughts in Utah, with some level of recurrence surfacing about every decade. Most extremely dry periods tend to be followed by a number of wet years.

A drought monitor maintained by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in partnership with federal and state agencies synthesizes multiple indices to represent a consensus of scientists in measuring drought conditions, continued foundation researchers. The scientists calculate data and classify situations as abnormally dry, moderate, severe, extreme and exceptional drought conditions.

In 2003, 100 percent of the state experienced at least severe drought, 97.1 percent encountered extreme drought and 9.58 witnessed exceptional drought conditions.

In 2005 and 2006, drought conditions decreased significantly statewide.

Approximately 20 percent of Utah experienced drought conditions during 2006 before jumping back up to 90 percent in 2007.

Yearly precipitation and snowpack levels directly effect on the ability to store and provide water statewide, explained foundation researchers. Most of Utah's water is stored in reservoirs, including Carbon County's Scofield.

Last August, statewide water storage registered at approximately 64 percent of total capacity. For 2008, the statewide reservoir storage level registered at 55 percent of capacity, significantly less han the 76 percent annual average.

Part of the water stored in state reservoirs supplies Utah's municipal systems.

As of 2005, the Utah Division of Water Resources estimates the state's per capita municipal usage at 260 gallons per day. Residential purposes include drinking, washing, sanitation and irrigation of lawns or gardens. Commercial uses include small business operations like gas stations, hotels, motels, restaurants and stores. Industrial uses include manufacturing plants, refineries, dairies, mining operations, electrical generation plants and companies producing a product. Institutional uses include public buildings, churches, parks, golf courses, cemeteries and similar facilities.

The daily per capita numbers represent total outdoor and indoor use of public community system's potable and non-potable water. Non-potable water is unsafe to drink because it has not undergone a purification process and, therefore, contains pollutants, contaminants or hazardous minerals. Examples include recycled or grey water used on municipal golf courses and secondary supplies provided to residents for landscapes. Untreated secondary water generally comes from wells and canals.

Private residences consume slightly more than one-half of the total municipal water supplied statewide. The Utah Division of Water Resources estimates that 53 percent of the indoor water is used to flush toilets and bath or shower. About 22 percent is used for laundry purposes and 14 percent comes from water leaks like dripping faucets. Only 11 percent of indoor residential water usage comes from cooking, drinking, cleaning and washing dishes in the kitchen.

Including non-potable and potable sources, two-thirds of all water consumed by Utah residences is for outdoor purposes. About one-half of the potable and all of the residentially consumed non-potable water is for outdoor use, concluded foundation researchers.

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