Public and private officials from around Utah who are concerned with water use heard about topics ranging from federal financing of water proj-ects to how cloud seeding affects precipitation when they met in St. George recently.
The conference's organizer, Robert Hill, designated irrigation specialist with the Utah State University Cooperative Extension Service, said the gathering attracted a record number of registrants. More than 320 people representing federal, state and private water interests attended.Hill said participants in the two-day meeting make up a good mix of those who regulate or administer water programs.
"We have a lot of people from state agencies such as the Division of Water Resources, the Division of Water Rights, the Utah Department of Agriculture and the State Health Department. We also have federal agencies like the Bureau of Reclamation, the Soil Conservation Service, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Agricultural Conservation and Stabilization Service represented," he said. Hill said various water conservancy districts, irrigation and canal companies from across the state were also represented.
"We have both the clean water and the dirty water guys here," Hill said. "It's a good place to mingle in the halls. We have people responsible for municipal water supplies and those who administer wastewater proj-ects."
Predictably, many of the workshop sessions focused on the drought that is entering its fifth year. William J. Alder, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service's Salt Lake office, discussed short- and long-term implications of the water shortage. He also discussed the meteorological events that led to the drought.
Alder's report indicated the situation won't improve much without significant precipitation this month and next. Current figures indicate the state will need significant moisture to fill its reservoirs adequately. For that to happen over the next two months would require rainfall that hasn't been recorded in Utah for 30 years. Some irrigation systems across the state have already announced plans to cut supplies by half or two-thirds.
The event featured three general sessions and 14 specific workshops, some of which were repeated. The first general session included discussion of the legislation surrounding completion of the Central Utah Project. Roland Robison of the Bureau of Reclamation focused on conservation issues. He also talked about what is currently on line within the CUP and what will soon be in place. Robison outlined current expenditures and future needs. He also led a panel discussion on the Bureau of Reclamation's role in light of the new laws allowing the project's completion.
Conference attendees also discussed legislation passed by Congress recognizing a federal reserve of water rights in wilderness areas. The meeting concentrated on defining what the federal reserve water right involves, its extent and the relationship between federal and state water rights.
The final general session focused on programs to help finance water projects available from the U.S. Department of Interior, the Bureau of Reclamation and the federal Agriculture Department. Funding is available for repair and maintenance of facilities erosion control, water reclamation projects and non-federal irrigation systems. Commissioner Dennis Underwood and Curt Carpenter from the Bureau of Reclamation, along with Gary Cross of the Soil Conservation Service, gave an overview of the funding available and a list of the qualifications.
Other workshop topics included the history and forecast for Utah's areas of significant groundwater withdrawal, dam safety, water quality and water rights protection, cloud seeding and its effect on precipitation in the Uintas, water reuse and landscaping techniques that emphasize minimum water use.