Letter to the Editor: Need secondary water regulations
The article on secondary water systems which ran in the March 30 issue of the Sun Advocate was informative. Among other points, the article discussed the secondary system which Wellington City has. One owner of water shares had pointed out the inequity of the system. That somehow city residents were getting the better deal. I thought maybe some additional information would be interesting:
Total cost of the project was $8.31 million. Of that $4.81 million was provided by the Bureau of Reclamation in the form of a grant. The Utah Board of Water Resources gave a $2.5 million loan, Another $0.5 million was provided by Community Impact Board in the form of a loan and grant, and the remaining $0.5 million came from the city and canal company. While both the Wellington Canal Company and Wellington City are paying back the loans, the city pays by far the biggest share of it. However, noted in the project's feasibility study, almost the entire $4.81 million grant (58%) of the total package was given to the canal company and water share holders to fund their portion. Eight hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars was held from the project for environmental mitigation, but I'm not aware on what it was spent. In short, the canal company got all of the "free money", and the city is paying the bulk of the loans. With the grant money, the water users spent roughly 1.5 million on buried pipe on private property. Between $700 and $750 thousand spent on sprinkling systems on private farms. The canal company also asked and was given $416,000 to put in a regulating reservoir, which they did not put in.
Wellington City is the one who is held solely responsible for the repayment of the loans. So while a city or county may make cooperative agreements with canal companies, they are basically taking on the responsibility for the solvency of the canal companies, and the share holders. This is potentially a high cost risk to the repayment of loans. Do people really want to take on the added responsibility for these private water companies?
The city at times, appears to struggle to keep adequate water supplies available for the secondary hook-ups. The lending agencies requested that the canal company make assurances to supply the city with enough water for residential use for a period of time that would "at least' cover repayment of the loan, but the canal company did not make that assurance. The canal company continues to retain control over the majority of the water in that canal. While true the water is provided to all residents, the availability of that water is still contingent on what shares Wellington City has control over.
In relation to our property, a share of water was turned over to the city by the developer. In turn, we agreed to annex into Wellington City so that they would then give us a hook-up to culinary water. We never agreed to convert a portion of that share into ditch water.
The city has other inequities as well. Only the residential hook-ups are required by ordinance to pay for the secondary water. Commercial, industrial, rentals and mobile-home parks, etc. are not required to pay for this system.
In retrospect, maybe we need to look very closely at the people who are promoting the systems. The funding agencies are looking at interstate compacts to reduce salinity in the Colorado River and the health of fish. City's and residential properties contribute very little to this problem because they already sprinkle their landscape, so the only people to significantly benefit are the farmers and large stockholders in the canal companies. Positioning of water reservoirs to accommodate these projects also usually end up being very lucrative for a few key people who control the water. In the end, the canal companies are attached to tax-collecting entities to defer their costs and guarantee loans, and the rest of us just end up paying the same or more for unsafe water.
The feasibility study for Wellington indicated that at the time of the study "Although the city's irrigation water is distributed to citizens through a ditch system, most residents prefer to water their lawns and gardens from the city's culinary water system". In the end the residents who wanted the secondary system did so because they were told they would have un-metered water and virtually unlimited use as long as it didn't run off their property.
Wellington did not consider the health issues of the contaminated water. Neither can they adequately control nor monitor cross-connections, and therefore contamination of our drinking water is an ever present danger. In addition, our culinary water tends to stagnate in areas because of the drop in use.
One thing that needs to be seriously addressed by government agencies is the fact that no matter what pollution is in that water, the canal systems are protected from regulation and monitoring. They don't have to clean it up; they don't even have to test it to see what is in it. The government protects us from these health risks in every other area of our day to day life, but not irrigation water. The pivotal difference is insistence that it be mandatory, taking away an individual right to make choices for themselves regarding contaminants in the water. If we are to expand the use of this water from alfalfa fields and stock yards to our personal living environments, then federal, state and local authorities need to enact regulations, studies, and tests; and funding needs to be dedicated to implement and enforce it.