Rural wells in northwest Davis County are running dry, leaving residents to either drill newer and deeper wells or annex into nearby cities and apply for city water.
Both prospects are expensive. Well drillers are currently quoting prices in the $50- to $60-per-foot range for drilling and casing new wells.In some areas, the groundwater level has fallen through drought and depletion to the point where wells have to be sunk between 500 and 600 feet to find potable water.
But bringing in city water can also be expensive, with municipal officials looking at price tags in the $400,000 to $500,000 range for rural areas, costs that will be passed on to the property owners.
Syracuse, Layton and West Point city officials are all looking at annexation or municipal water requests.
One group of property owners west of Syracuse was able to extend water lines to their homes from the Hooper Water District, a special service district. But that may create problems in the future if they eventually annex into a nearby city.
Cities want their residents to be served by their own systems and, for legal reasons, don't want their city system tied into that of another city or service district.
Scott Carter, community development director for Layton, said an area of about 1,200 acres with 45 homes is being considered for annexation into his city.
In Syracuse, City Manager Mike Moyes said he is anticipating an annexation request for an area of 1.5 square miles with 39 homes.
Providing water lines and hydrants, and hooking up the residents in the Layton area will cost about $300,000, city officials estimate.
The Syracuse improvements could cost up to $450,000 to serve those new residents.
Neither city has that much money available for the construction. They would look for financing through low-interest loans through the state's water development agency.
Residents would be assessed a hookup fee, plus monthly assessments in addition to their usage fee, to repay the installation costs.
"We will work with them in getting water to them and present them with options on how we would fund that system," Carter said.
"There are some residents who are in a critical situation."
Although they are asking for help from the cities, some of the residents blame the cities in part for their problem. Deep wells sunk by cities seeking to expand their water supplies are blamed by the residents for lowering the water table.
Layton has a new 585-foot well it is preparing to put into service that will pump 500 to 600 gallons of water a minute.
"We're between a rock and a hard spot and we've got to annex to get water," said Wayne Bone, one of the leaders in the Layton annexation bid.
"It's overdue. I have no qualms about going to the city," Bone said.
Syracuse Mayor DeLore Thurgood lays blame for the dry wells at the feet of the state as well as four years of drought.
The state's water rights division has indiscriminately issued well-drilling permits, he charges, without considering the effect on water tables and nearby wells.
But John Mann, the division's engineer for the region, said it's difficult to pinpoint cause-and-effect relationships on aquifers.
A report issued two months ago by the U.S. Geological Survey's water resources division says ground water levels in the Layton and Syracuse areas have fallen 30 to 40 feet in the last 35 years.
The water is still there, according to the report, but people and municipalities need to drill deeper and pump more to tap into it.