To conserve or not to conserve?

That's the question Clearfield officials are batting around in their heads as hot weather approaches.The left side of their collective brain tells them to encourage residents to conserve water because it's the "right thing to do," given the drought and all.

Besides, the rest of Davis County is under rationing orders.

But the other side of their brain says, "Whoa! You encourage mass conservation and you'll lose money."

"We're in a Catch-22 situation," said Mayor Neldon Hamblin. "It's like talking out of both sides of our mouth."

Unlike the other communities in the county, the majority of Clearfield residents - about 90 percent - do not have secondary water systems for irrigating gardens and lawns.

Instead, they use culinary water, which, unlike secondary water, is metered. The revenues from culinary water use go to the city, which uses the money to purchase its annual water allotment from the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District.

The city pays for the water in advance. This year, the city has already paid $329,000 for 4,200 acre-feet.

So if residents use all but 1,200 acre-feet, for example, the city loses the revenue from the unused portion, said City Manager Jack Bippes.

In that scenario, the total-revenue loss would be about $94,000, which would have to be absorbed from the general fund - or from taxpayers' pockets.

The city has no plans to restrict culinary water use but will likely encourage conservation in its next newsletter.

Hamblin said culinary water, which is more expensive than secondary water, already offers the most effective conservation motivator: money.

"They pay for it, so they conserve anyway."