What a difference a few miles make.
That is especially true in northern Utah, where a few miles is making a critical difference between major water woes and having to put up with minor inconveniences this summer.The discrepancy is causing a lot of confusion in the public's mind. While some districts are pleading with customers for major water conservation efforts or are imposing mandatory watering restrictions, others are simply urging caution and moderation.
News reports on recent mountain storms significantly increasing snow pack over the past month add to that confusion, officials say. Indications are that much of the recent snow will not add significantly to earlier runoff projections. In other words, reservoir storage remains critically low throughout the state. Also complicating matters is Utah's water rights system, which gives the holder of senior water rights - many of which belong to irrigation companies - control over some reservoirs that are critical in the culinary water systems.
Providing irrigation and culinary water to cities and irrigators in Davis, Weber, Morgan and Summit counties, the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District has just 27 percent of its regular water supply to meet the needs of its customers this year, said district general manager Ivan Flint.
In addition to the lack of mountain snow and a fifth consecutive drought year, the Weber water district is plagued by the lack of senior water rights in a few of the seven reservoirs operated by the district on the Weber and Ogden rivers, he said.
Flint said the district is imposing restrictions that should give cities full delivery on culinary water contracts while restricting irrigation to 50 percent of contracted supplies. The district will be pumping all eight of its deep wells - a move that Flint admits could affect other wells in Davis and Weber counties - and it plans to make major water exchanges out of Willard Bay using a drought-relief pumping system built in 1977 but never used.
Explaining the need for these restrictions has been difficult, Flint said, because areas like Salt Lake City and Ogden, which hold senior water rights along the Wasatch Front's major watersheds, are not as heavily impacted and are not imposing similar restrictions.
"People just don't realize the difference that 10 or 20 miles can make," Flint said.
Those sentiments were echoed by others making water reports at the meeting.
Carly Burton, a Utah Power & Light spokesman, said water users dependent on Bear Lake water will face restrictions this summer. UP&L controls water flows at Bear Lake, which is operated as a reservoir for the company's hydro-electric operations.
Burton said letters have been sent to water users urging major conservation efforts. He said use of released water will be closely monitored and will be cut off in areas where it appears the use is not warranted.
"People don't realize that the net runoff we have received in Bear Lake from 1987 to 1989 was less than one year's runoff received during normal water years," Burton said.
Water availability differs
Where you live will have a big impact on how the current drought affects your water use:
- Bountiful City is imposing outdoor watering restrictions because of limited secondary deliveries from Weber Basin Water Conservancy District.
- In Salt Lake City, a few miles to the south, water districts have yet to impose water restrictions. With Deer Creek Reservoir, a major water source for the Salt Lake valley and one of the few largestrip
- Layton, in north Davis County, also faces severe limitations for outdoor secondary systems because of Weber Basin's dilemma.
- Ogden, a few miles to the north, is among the areas that receive much of their culinary supply from wells and should be able to meet traditional indoor water demands.
- Cities in Davis and Weber counties dependent on Weber Basin for culinary water supplies face the dilemma of choosing between maintaining current water department revenues or protecting reservoir st~