IT’S EASY TO FORGET THAT WE LIVE IN A DESERT
When we flip a switch, we expect the lights to turn on; when we turn the tap, we expect a glass of clean, safe water. Providing a safe and plentiful supply of culinary water is one of our city’s most critical responsibilities. We have a dedicated and professional staff, under the direction of Craig Christensen, who manage our 8 artesian wells, our treatment plant, and our 176 miles of pipelines. Oversight of the City's Water Department is provided by the City Council's Water Committee. I am also priviliged to be on that Committee to have a first hand view of the decisions made and to give guidance and direction as needed.
As good as all of these folks are, ultimate control of Bountiful’s water supply rests with the weather gods who determine how much rain and snow we receive and where it falls. About 60% of our culinary water comes from artesian wells; another 20% comes from Mill Creek Canyon (a part of which is Mueller Park), and the remaining 20% comes from the Weber River, courtesy of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District. Culinary water policies are governed by Bountiful City.
Bountiful’s secondary water system (untreated) is managed by the Bountiful Irrigation District (BID), which is governed by a five-member Board of Trustees appointed by the Davis County Commission. All of this district’s water is provided under contract with the Weber Basin Conservancy District. Bountiful City officials are not part of that BID governance structure. For decades, Bountiful residents have been accustomed to virtually unlimited usage of secondary water for outdoor use.
Changes, however, are in the air. In 2019, the legislature enacted SB 52, which mandates that all secondary water systems designed in Utah after 2020 be metered at the last usage point as a way to promote water conservation. There is continuing legislative pressure to meter all secondary systems. Metering is the first step toward usage charges for water. If use isn’t reduced and the drought continues to next year and beyond, there will be more pressure to change pricing policies. Economics is called the Dismal Science for a reason. Scarcity pushes prices. Metering water is the regulator by which a diminishing resource is priced to achieve market-based rational usage.
Bountiful is in a period of vertical, as opposed to horizontal growth. BID’s contract with Weber Basin probably provides sufficient delivery of irrigation water in Bountiful to meet unmetered demand in a “normal” water year. About half of Centerville’s secondary water hook-ups are now metered. BID is resisting metering in Bountiful because of the significant costs of purchasing and installing meters. BID argues to the legislature that the extra costs of metering should be covered by the state in pursuit of a statewide policy mandate. This back and forth will likely stall BID metering in Bountiful for a few more years.
In any event, however, BID’s contract with Weber Basin allows Weber Basin to cut back on delivery in times of drought, and Weber Basin’s reservoirs started this year with only 60% of “normal” storage. The 20% reduction imposed by the Weber Basin Conservancy District was in accordance with Governor Cox’s March 17, 2021 Emergency Drought Declaration. Hopefully, wise water usage this summer will avoid further reduction requirements.
We are in the 20th year of a sustained drought. As of March 1st, reservoirs statewide were at 50% capacity. Lake Powell was at 40% capacity. The National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska, in partnership with the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Commerce, publishes the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor, with five classifications of drought conditions. Nearly all of Utah is within the two worst categories: extreme and exceptional. The link is here: https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/
We are the second-driest state (after Nevada), but we use more water per capita than any state except Idaho. Governor Cox has set a 2025 goal of reducing Utah’s per capita water usage by 25%. It’s estimated that 60% of water used by Utah households is for outdoor use.
There have been many news stories over the past months related to Utah’s water shortage. Here are links to two recent stories: one from the Salt Lake Tribune, and the other from the New York Times:
As Bountiful’s Mayor, I’m encouraging our businesses, churches, and residents to use much less water for lawns than we usually might. August and September are already shaping up to be brown grass months, but careful water use beginning now may extend the green a bit longer. I need to remind everyone that asphalt doesn’t need to be watered. BID limits outside watering to the hours between 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. Unfortunately, there are too many addresses where daytime watering ignores those restrictions. Please pay some attention to the settings on sprinkler systems in terms of aim and run-time per line. The water situation in Bountiful this year is more serious than I’ve seen in all the years we’ve lived here.
Thank you for helping to make Bountiful such a great place to live and work, and thank you for allowing me to by your Mayor.
Mayor Randy Lewis
WORKING TO KEEP GOOD THINGS HAPPENING IN BOUNTIFUL!
Not Paid for by Public Funds