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Front Page » January 21, 2014 » Carbon County News » Water supply outlook? 'Terrible, Terrible...'
Published 89 days ago

Water supply outlook? 'Terrible, Terrible...'


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By KEVIN SCANNELL
Sun Advocate reporter

In the spring the saying goes, "with April showers come May flowers."

For Price City, those flowers may be a little more difficult to grow in a few months as little precipitation has hit the area since the beginning of winter one month ago.

At a city council meeting on Jan. 8, Price City officials brought up some water numbers that have some concerned about what may lie ahead during the summer months.

Gary Sonntag, Price City Public Works Director, said the city is already looking at lower water levels at Scofield Reservoir this year compared to last year. When the summer season ended and the use of water began to taper down from summer months, Sonntag said the reservoir bottomed out in October at 13,139 acre feet.

"We're starting the year lower than where the water levels were last year," Sonntag said to the city council.

Over three months later, the numbers are not looking any better.

As of Jan. 20, the water level at the reservoir was 14,436 acre feet, according to River Commissioner Bob Davis.

Scofield Reservoir is built to hold an active capacity of 65,000 acre feet of water.

In the mountains, measurements taken at the beginning of January showed around 20 inches of snow, with about 5.3 inches of that considered the water equivalent.

All in all, the numbers are troubling.

"Terrible, terrible, terrible," said Davis of the low water levels. "It's the worst in the last few years."

"We're at a point where...we need to receive water," Sonntag said bluntly to the council on Jan. 8.

While this may be considered a critical time, this isn't the first time the area has dealt with low water levels. In the past, water levels have been low, but the reservoir levels ended up being raised with three or four big snow storms that passed through.

"We may need that again," Sonntag said.

Been dry before

Davis, who has been in his position for 24 years, said the area has seen extreme highs and lows in the past. For example, 1991 was a tough year as water levels at the reservoir became so low that water was not allowed to be pulled from it for use. The following year in 1992, there was so much water that the reservoir spilled over.

This has occurred in recent years as well. Scofield Reservoir was spilling over as recently as 2011 with high amounts of precipitation during the winter months. Since then the reservoir has slowly dropped to levels that have seen cities in the county, including Price City, discuss possible restrictions on water use during the summer months.

Drought is not something Carbon County is handling by itself. Multiple counties in Utah, including Utah, Davis, Juab, Beaver, Washington, San Juan and others have been declared drought disaster by the federal government. Other states including California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Texas have seen counties in their states also declared drought disaster areas.

Because of that, the USDA has low-interest emergency loans that eligible farmers in those areas can apply for. The USDA also said that farmers in nearby counties may be eligible for assistance.

Since the winter season began, Price City has seen just a few days with snow fall. But thanks to the recent string of weather with temperatures reaching in the mid-40s, there isn't much left on the ground in the city.

With winter underway, the hope is for storm systems to bring along precipitation to cover the mountains and fill the rivers that supply water for the area. However, long term forecasts don't look good, Davis said.

For 2014, the National Resources Conservation Service is predicting that many places in the western United States will be dealing with limited water supplies. In a map detailing the state of Utah, many of the stream sources of water in and around Carbon County are predicted to be anywhere between 50 to 89 percent of average.

"We could be hurting bad this year," said Davis. "People may need to plan ahead for the summer."

For more information, visit the National Resources Conservation Service website at www.nrcs.usda.gov.

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