County's water supplies at Scofield Reservoir dwindling
|Anglers sit on the rock beach along the neck of water leading to the dam at Scofield Reservoir. As the summer goes on people find that they are having to go farther and farther down the beach to reach the water. The reservoir has dropped to a very low point and the level will probably decrease more before the winter snows come.|
A discussion at a meeting of the Price River Water Improvement District on Tuesday revealed that the available water for use in Scofield Reservoir appears to be the worst it has been in years.
"As of yesterday (Aug. 2), the reservoir has 11,177 acre feet of usable water in it," PRWID manager Phil Palmer told the board. "Last year at this time, there were 21,7325 acre feet."
Agricultural producers in the Carbon County area have known all summer that the Price River Water Users Association had predicted only about a 50 percent delivery rate .
Since the association cannot restrict individual users to 50 percent at any specific time, the organization has to cut suppliers earlier than usual during the summer/fall season.
"It looks like the water will be cut off for the canals sometime in late August to early September," noted Jeff Richens, assistant water improvement district manager.
Although the association's action has become necessary because of low supplies at Scofield Reservoir, the move will have a direct impact on Carbon County residents who use secondary water for agriculture fields, yards and gardens.
Temperatures frequently remain hot throughout the month of September.
The weather conditions allow farmers to raise an extra crop of alfalfa and gardeners in the Carbon County area to expand production.
But without secondary water, taking advantage of the prolonged growing season becomes problematic.
"The depletion rate on the reservoir is about eight weeks ahead of normal," commented Richens.
Palmer pointed out that the lowest level the reservoir reached last year was on Oct. 1, when the storage at Scofield dropped to approximately 10,000 acre feet.
Oct. 1 is the date when the reservoir is traditionally at its lowest point of the year.
"It is only 1,100 feet above that now and Oct. 1 is still two months away," stated Palmer.
The lowest storage level reported at Scofield Reservoir has steadily decreased annually as six years of ongoing drought conditions have plagued Utah. The drought has also created problems in other parts of the western United States.
While last winter provided some snow in the mountain drainage above the reservoir, it was not enough to make up for the years of drought the water hole has had to absorb.
At one point during a previous drought several years ago, water had to be pumped over the dam at Scofield in order to keep it flowing down the Price River for not only the fisheries, but for municipal usage in the county. The storage level dropped so low during the previous drought that the water in the reservoir did not reach the release portals at the dam.
However, there appears to be a slight amount of assistance for water levels on the horizon.
Due to fishery problems, water being pumped from Skyline mine into the Electric Lake drainage will be converted back to the Scofield system, explained PRWID's assistant manager.
The diversion of the water from Skyline mine will mean that, if rates continue as in the past, more than 6,000 gallons per minute will be put into Scofield Reservoir once the flow begins.
The fishery problems at Electric Lake involve water quality.
The lake is currently classified by the state as a class A cold water fishery. Therefore, the state has the authority to decide kinds of water are put into it as well as Straight Canyon Creek that flows out of it into Huntington. Presently, the water coming out of the mine is not of sufficient quality to be added to the lake. When the pumping of water from one basin to the other commenced last year, the same question surfaced at that time. The volume of water in the lake was such that it seemed the small amount coming in wouldn't affect the quality. But, with a poor winter water year in the mountains and more and more water in the lake having come from the mine, it has now become a problem.
Scofield Reservoir, on the other hand, has already been impacted for over a hundred years by mining activities in the drainage above it and is not classified in the same category, so it is able to take on that water. It was estimated that almost a third of the reservoir's water supply last year had come from the water pumped from the mine.
However the mine has since been idled and there is the possibility the company may decide to halt the expensive pumping operations. That was a point of discussion at the meeting as well. That question couldn't be answered by those present, but most felt the pumping would continue because the mine is only idled and not closed down completely.
Another report that Palmer gave to the board concerned water shares that are owned by the canal companies in the county. The 32 page printout documented not only private ownership of shares, but also broke it down into the total canal companies control and whether the water is being used for agricultural purposes or industrial/municipal use.
According to the figures released the Carbon Canal Company has the most shares at 19,436.12. The next closest is the Wellington Canal with 4,445.33 and the Spring Glen Canal coming in with 1,571.93 shares. The smallest number of shares a canal company holds is 50 and that is owned by the L. Bryner-Plautz Ditch Company. The total shares owned by the canal companies listed in the report total 29,508.76.
"I was extremely surprised how much of the water is going to non-agricultural uses," stated Palmer. "It's higher than I would have expected when we looked at it."
Of the over 29,000 shares, 11,148.77 are used for non-ag uses. This includes shares owned by municipal agencies, private citizens and industry.
A water share is the same as an acre foot of water (one acre of ground with one foot of water covering it) but loss during delivery is part of the measurement as well.
Richens also reported on the progress of the Wellington/Carbonville water project. He told the board that by the end of next week he expected all the asphalt work would be completed and that within about two weeks the district would begin going over the punch list for completion with the contractor.
"The meters are all in and now services are being hooked up," he explained. "However finding the old meters, positioning the new ones and hooking them up was not as easy as it was initially portrayed to us. Some meters were in back yards, some for one property were in a neighbor's yard and others were just hard to find. What we have done is put them in front of homes and in the right yards so they will be easier to maintain and keep track of."