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South Valley Journal

State engineer closes Utah Lake secondary water rights, Draper & Riverton seeking alternatives

Aug 10, 2016 12:05PM ● By Chris Larson

By Chris Larson | [email protected]

The Utah State Engineer, Kent Jones, has shut down secondary water rights to Utah Lake after a meeting with Utah Lake Water Users Association and other major secondary water rights holders on Tuesday, Aug. 9, meaning that any organization with inferior rights are no longer be able to pump from the lake.

The Utah Department of Natural Resources said in a statement released on Aug. 10 that entities are to stop taking water from the lake “beginning Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, effective through the end of the growing season.”

Riverton City almost exclusively uses secondary water rights from Utah Lake to supply its irrigation system, while Draper City's WaterPro Inc. also relies heavily on Utah Lake seoncary water rights for irrigation water. 

The statement said that upstream reservoirs have fallen below 125,000 acre-feet and the Utah Lake Water Distribution Plan of 1992 calls for secondary water rights to be reduced and that levels have recently fallen below that point.

“The Division of Water Rights first notified impacted canal companies and other water users in October 2015 that (the 125,000 acre-feet) threshold could be reached (in 2016) if hot and dry conditions persisted,” the DNR statement states. “According to the State Engineer, successive years of reduced runoff and higher temperatures have resulted in the declining water levels of Utah Lake.”

In an Aug. 2 City Council meeting, Riverton City called for an emergency meeting to be scheduled for Aug. 9 to pass an enforceable watering schedule in response to reports of a critically low Utah Lake. The meeting was canceled the morning of Aug. 9 after the State Engineer met with the major secondary water rights users.

State engineer closes Utah Lake secondary water rights Draper  Riverton seeking alternatives - Aug 10 2016 1205PM

State engineer closes Utah Lake secondary water rights, Draper & Riverton seeking alternatives - Aug 10, 2016 12:05PM

The Utah State Engineer has shut down secondary water rights to Utah Lake. The Utah State Engineer said entities are to stop taking water from the lake beginning Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. Read More » 

Angella Trammell, Riverton City spokesperson, said the city is no longer pursuing enforceable water restrictions but is calling on all residents to voluntarily conserve secondary water.

Trammell also said that “in a spirit of cooperation” Riverton City will be able to continue to supply irrigation water in an exchange of rights from other sources. 

The statement from the Utah Department of Natural Resources said major secondary water users will “be able to receive replacement water from other sources including Deer Creek storage, accretion flows on the Jordan River, and ownership or lease of shares of primary water in Utah Lake.”

In the same Aug. 2 meeting, Riverton Water Director D. Scott Hill said the city was informed of the State Engineer’s intent to limit secondary water rights to Utah Lake because of low levels.

Neither Draper City nor Riverton City meter secondary irrigation water consumption in earnest. Riverton City consumes 27 to 30 million gallons of secondary water every day, according to Hill.

WaterPro Inc. Assistant General Manager David Garner said that once the lake level drops to 8 feet below compromise WaterPro, or any secondary right user, won’t be able to pump any water from the lake, regardless of water rights. The pumps won’t be able to reach the water.

WaterPro supplies water to about half of Draper City.

According to the Central Utah Water Conservancy District website, the lake is 6.37 feet below compromise.

In a statement posted the Riverton City website, the city said canal companies and canal managers will continue to pump water out of Utah Lake until they are no longer able to maintain pressure in the system.

Trammell and Gardner said that the canal companies and municipalities will try continue to supply water until Oct.1, but said there are no guarantees that they will be able to do so.  

“The canal managers will continue to operate only to the extent they can,” the statement on states. “They cannot guarantee the canals will continue to flow for the remainder of the irrigation system.”

The statement reiterates the need for citizens to undertake conservation efforts voluntarily.

Both Gardner and Hill said that all users need to reduce consumption by 20 to 25 percent to extend the irrigation season to possibly surpass the Oct. 1 supply goal.

Gardner hopes WaterPro will be able to continue to supply irrigation water from Utah Lake until the beginning of September and then lease water from another company until Oct. 1.

Hill also said Riverton is looking to lease additional water rights from another company that, he said, has a “surplus.”

However, weather conditions like wind speed over time, temperature, and precipitation (or the lack thereof) have significant impact on when Utah Lake water users will no longer be able to pump water from the lake, Garnder said.

“We are in the second most arid state in the country,” Councilman Trent Staggs, District 3, said in an interview. “It behooves us to try and conserve when and where we can as much as we can.”

Staggs wants the city to switch its irrigation water system to a consumption-based model like the culinary water system. But he said it is currently cost prohibitive for the city to install irrigation water meters on the “balance of some 10,000 residences” in Riverton. He said it costs about $800 to install a new irrigation water meter.

The council passed an ordinance requiring new development to install secondary water meters last year.

“I think, in fact, I know, that will foster conservation,” Staggs said of making resident pay for secondary water use.

Staggs also sees what he calls a “free rider” effect where the city’s efforts will be of little consequence unless other cities follow suit and make conservation efforts in earnest.

“Unless we do this in concert with other municipalities we will be facing the same problems,” Staggs said.

Gardner said only about 15 percent of secondary irrigation water users in Draper City are metered.

Staggs suggested the city seek the assistance of the Utah State Legislature by building a coalition of South Valley legislators to advocate for municipal conservation efforts by backing a grant, alloting money, or helping find products and installers for the metering effort.