Concerns rise as Scofield level falls
As the warm days of summer firmly take their place, the eyes of many in Price City will be focusing not just upon the days of clear blue skies and beautiful outlooks with the Book Cliffs in the distance.
Instead, a large portion of their attention will be focused on the water levels at Scofield Reservoir and other providers of water that the residents of Price City and Carbon County depend upon to fulfill their water needs.
Gary Sonntag, Price City Public Works director, said that Price City is already closely monitoring the situation with the water levels. In an email to the Sun Advocate, Sonntag said that Scofield Reservoir has stopped filling with snow from the surrounding mountains and is beginning to recede.
On June 1, the water at the reservoir was measured at 27,372 acre feet and a subsequent measurement a week later on June 8 was measured at 27,157, a reduction of about 215 acre feet or 0.7 percent.
Scofield Reservoir has a storage capacity of about 65,000 acre feet.
At the end of the peak season of water use in October, the water levels at the reservoir bottomed out at 13,139 acre feet, Sonntag said. Things looked no better in January as little snowfall in the mountains saw the measurements in January were at 14,436 acre feet. River Commissioner Bob Davis told the Sun Advocate that the measurements were some of the worst he had seen in years, calling the situation, "Terrible, terrible, terrible."
Three years ago, the reservoir was filled to capacity and was spilling over. But in the years since then, a combination of low snow levels and drought conditions, as well as water usage by the county population, have seen the water levels fall with each passing year.
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.
To combat the water usage issue, Price City began informing residents about ways to reduce water usage with a campaign centered around the idea of "slowing the flow" by using water efficiently. They created a cartoon character of a water drop named "Dew Drop" that was put on stickers, magnets and banners hanging in places including on the outside of City Hall.
Sonntag said since the city began the push last summer about the community working to "slow the flow", the city has seen reductions in their water revenue. In May, the city saw a 27 percent decrease in the water revenue the city receives compared to May of 2013.
"This is an indication that water users are following water conservation practices," Sonntag said in the email while noting that weather conditions in the month of May also likely affected the water use during the month. "Water users are to be congratulated on how they are managing their water use."
With a long summer ahead, Sonntag said the city can't stress enough about the importance of using water wisely.
"We need to keep sufficient water in the reservoir for emergency backup and give us a good start for next year," he said.
While the water levels at the reservoir are not at a high level, Sonntag said the city is not actively looking at enacting water restrictions for residents. But that could change depending upon what happens over the next few months, he said.
One way the city is helping out is by providing free water audits for residents looking to learn about the efficiency of their watering systems. Price City is working with the Utah State University Extension Office to offer the audits free of charge that help give detailed information on how well a water sprinkling system is working, how long to water a particular area and much more. To learn more about the water auditing program, contact the Extension Office at (435) 636-3233.