Faced with the possibility of a parched watershed next year, Salt Lake City water officials have come up with several ways to replenish the city's water supply, including denying water surpluses to Salt Lake County.
Two dry winters and this year's arid fall have lowered area stream flows to levels equal to the drought in 1977 and near levels seen in the record dry Dust Bowl years of the 1930s, said LeRoy Hooton Jr., public utilities director."If this weather regime stays in place for the remainder of the winter, we have to take some measures to ensure we have an adequate water supply for next summer," Hooton said.
Plans include hoarding rights to Deer Creek Reservoir water, cloud seeding, drilling existing wells deeper and building a small water treatment plant in Mill Creek Canyon, he said. The cost could run up to $500,000.
Last year Salt Lake City residents used 104,000 acre feet of water, of which 41,000 acre feet came from Deer Creek, Hooton said. An acre-foot of water is enough water to cover a surface acre with one foot of water.
Deer Creek's annual yield is 61,700 acre feet of water, meaning that 20,700 acre feet of surplus water could be sold through the Metropolitan Water District to Salt Lake County users, he said.
But under the 1989 plan, Salt Lake City would use all of Deer Creek's 61,700 acre feet of water, leaving nary a drop of surplus water for county residents.
Hooton said he is constitutionally bound to sell only surplus water and, under next year's low-water forecast, no Deer Creek water is surplus. In fact, under a worst-case scenario, Salt Lake City still faces a 14,000 acre-foot deficit next year.
Salt Lake City is also applying to the State Water Resources Board for $15,000 to conduct a five-month cloud seeding program, he said . Total cost of the plan would be $85,000, with ski areas contributing $10,000, Hooton said.
If a winter seeding program achieves a 5-10 percent water yield in a year, the program would pay for itself, he said. And if snow pack improves, the program could be stopped.
Water pumps tapping area groundwater supplies could be deepened and two other wells now inoperative could be returned to service to the tune of $120,000, he said. A new well could also be drilled at 3900 S. Highland Drive, Hooton said.
A water treatment plant could also be built in Mill Creek Canyon this winter to treat water for the city, Hooton said. However, a $1 million price tag makes a new plant "impractical," he said.
Additionally, proposals to pump Strawberry Reservoir water into Utah Lake for Salt Lake City consumption and reaffirming ground water rights in the area are being considered under the 1989 plan, Hooton said.
The program, with a price tag of $400,000 to $500,000 is a "gamble," Hooton said, considering water conditions have a tendency to vary from the flood conditions in 1983 to the present drought.
"But you have to realize that everything we do is an asset that has continuing value,' he said.
Conservation measures are not included in the plan, even before the city would cut off county water users, Hooton admitted. But Hooton said his job is to provide necessary resources for city water users.
"Our plan is to manage resources, it's very easy to deny them; it's a little harder to manage them,' he said.
Additionally, a water rate structure that offers no price incentive for high use is "the strongest conservation tool available,' he said.