A letter to the state water engineer from Wellington last month raised concerns about the city's relationship with the Price River Water Improvement District.
But based on discussions at the PRWID board meeting on Tuesday, it appears the matter was more of misunderstanding than an attempt by Wellington to recall water shares the city committed to the district in the late 1970s.
"What we wanted to do was to address concerns we had about showing actual usage of the shares so we wouldn't lose them," explained Wellington Mayor Karl Houskeeper, who is a member of the PRWID board. "The request to the state engineer doesn't change our allocation of shares to the district."
If PRWID is not using all of the shares allocated for culinary use, Wellington could extend the city's secondary watering season.
"We realize that culinary use takes precedence over irrigation," stated Houskeeper. "What we requested from the state engineer was never intended to change the number of shares pledged, but instead was meant to change the use."
The May 27 letter to Mark Page asked him to allocate 412 acre feet from the PRWID allotment to Wellington for secondary water use.
That move then left PRWID with 230 acre feet with which to provide culinary water to the town.
When the Wellington letter was brought to the attention of the PRWID board, the members sent a written protest to the state water engineer's office.
A share is basically equal to an acre foot of water. The measurement is defined as the amount it takes to cover an acre of ground with one foot of water.
The PRWID letter pointed out that the two entities have a written agreement specifying that, at the present time, the city should provide a minimum of 334 shares to the water improvement district.
However, the district was informed that the state engineer's office does not enter into disputes involving agreements between parties concerning water use.
PRWID then decided to bring the matter up at the June 21 board meeting so the issue could be discussed with Houskeeper.
The discussion at Tuesday's meeting brought up the concern that, with the agreement violated, the document might have to be renegotiated.
"The point is that your town does retain ownership of the water shares," pointed out PRWID board member Tom Matthews to Houskeeper. "But once you lease something to someone, even though you still own it, you have a responsibility to them. It appears to me Wellington broke the lease by taking back the shares."
Most of the board members seemed to agree with Matthews, but the officials were also looking for a simpler way to resolve the situation than to develop a new agreement.
"I think if you pledge it to us, it is ours," commented PRWID board member Keith Cox. "But I also believe you can ask for some of it back if you want it. However, this board should be able to decide whether to agree to that or not."
Assistant PRWID manager Jeff Richens said that as he looked over the request Wellington had made to the state engineer, he found that it had been calculated on volume of water rather than by the shares involved. He felt that may have caused some of the confusion. However, Matthews said he was upset about the procedure Wellington had gone through for obtaining the water.
"I just think they should have come to us first," he said.
As the board discussed the situation with Houskeeper, they came to the conclusion that the situation might be remedied by going back to square one and asking Wellington to make such a request. A motion was made to that effect and Houskeeper said he would take that request back to the Wellington City council.
On another issue, PRWID district manager Phil Palmer pointed out that the water situation in the county, while good, was quickly turning around as the weather warmed up.
"Late last month reports said that there was a great deal more water coming into Scofield Reservoir than was being released," he said regarding the heavy spring runoff and the low use of water in the valley due to the wet conditions. "Today I was looking at the numbers and the inflow has dropped to 120 second feet of water while the outflow is now 80 second feet. As this hot weather continues those numbers will come closer together and soon it will be reversed. That means we will soon be going on reservoir water rather than direct flow rights."
Palmer also mentioned that residents in some parts of Spring Glen will be seeing paving work done in the next week to repair roads that were dug up for projects in the area. He also said that he and Richens had done a tour of the Carbonville and East Wellington areas and have developed another punch list for the contractor to finish concerning the streets in those areas as well.