North Ogden water

A sign outside the North Ogden municipal building and police department warns of the drought conditions on Thursday, July 15, 2021. Officials in the city recently took steps aimed at safeguarding North Ogden's drinking water supply.

NORTH OGDEN — North Ogden leaders have started putting a focus on safeguarding drinking water, not just secondary water, used to feed lawns.

If secondary water systems are shut off earlier than normal, as may occur, officials fear property owners may subsequently turn to their culinary water — the stuff you drink and cook with — to keep their grass green.

“The ‘threat’ would be the abuse/use of culinary water on lawns. We have enough water to keep the system running as normal, but would not have the ability for every resident to switch to watering their lawns with culinary water,” Jon Call, the North Ogden city attorney, said in an email.

Accordingly, Mayor Neal Berube declared a “critical water emergency” last Tuesday after receiving authority to do so from the North Ogden City Council, triggering a prohibition on the use of culinary water on lawns. To permit such use would “overtax” the supply of drinking water, which in North Ogden comes from wells and natural springs, Berube said.

Parallel to that, the City Council passed an ordinance spelling out the penalties if residents violate the prohibition. After an initial warning, they would face an infraction and a $250 fine. Third offenses, still an infraction, would be subject to $500 fines while fourth offenses would be deemed Class B misdemeanors and processed through district court.

Berube told the Standard-Examiner that he hopes fines and charges aren’t necessary. “Were hoping our efforts to educate and inform will avoid anything beyond a warning,” he said.

Residents would still be able to use culinary water on trees, bushes and gardens, which prompted a measure of exasperation from Councilperson Phil Swanson during Tuesday’s discussion on the issue. “I think we’re being generous with a very finite resource,” he said.

As the drought across Utah lingers on, much of the focus to contend with the situation has been on encouraging the public to cut back on lawn watering to conserve the resource. North Ogden officials, though, are starting to get jittery about the city’s drinking water supply.

The natural springs that supply drinking water in North Ogden, “are not at normal levels,” Call said, so water officials have to tap into the city’s well system. Pulling well water out of the ground is more expensive, he went on, so the City Council will address water fees at the body’s meeting scheduled for July 27.

Swanson said pinpointing how much remains in the city’s drinking water reserves is tough to do. “The reality is we just don’t know how much we have down there,” he said.

City officials plan to start getting the word out to the public about the water emergency via mailers, social media and more.

The flow of secondary water, the untreated water from Pineview Reservoir and other sources that’s used to water lawns, is typically turned off in mid-October. Given the drought, though, officials have said they’ll likely have to turn it off earlier. Ben Quick, general manager of Pineview Water Systems, which supplies secondary water to North Ogden, said he’s hoping to keep secondary water supplies running until Sept. 1, though a firm date has not yet been set.

Pineview officials had earlier said secondary water might have to be turned off in early August, but Quick said the public has responded to calls to cut back on watering.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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