Weber Basin Water Conservancy District is Northern Utah’s regional water supplier for treated municipal water, wholesale irrigation water, retail secondary irrigation water, untreated industrial water, and groundwater replacement water.
Many of us that live in Northern Utah enjoy the benefits provided by the construction of the Weber Basin Project and the subsequent operation and maintenance of this project carried out by the District. The most noticeable and impactful benefit is the annual delivery of hundreds of thousands of acre feet of water for irrigation and municipal and industrial use. This water allows us to turn the faucets on in our homes, or the outdoor irrigation spigot, and have flowing water. Several other benefits that are also provided, but not as readily noticeable, include flood control, recreation, reservoir and stream fisheries, and waterfowl refuges near the Great Salt Lake.
Recognizing this year’s above average snowpack and consequent increased interest in the flooding potential along the Ogden and Weber rivers, let’s discuss the flood control responsibilities of the District and the complex planning and operations that go into this conversation.
The District has the primary flood control responsibilities for the Ogden and Weber rivers. Reservoirs located along the Ogden River (Causey and Pineview) and the Weber River (Smith and Morehouse, Wanship, Echo, Lost Creek and East Canyon) allow the District to manage flows within the rivers by either storing water, releasing water, or a combination of the two. Leveraging multiple sources of information and expertise, the District decides when to store snowmelt runoff, when to release water, and how much to store or release. All of these decisions are made with the expectation that the reservoirs will fill, river channel capacity will not be exceeded, and no flooding will occur. Sound like a lot to digest and be monitoring? It is.
How do we know how much and when the water will come down the Ogden and Weber rivers? Great question. One tool is the data provided by snow telemetry (SNOTEL) sites. These sites provide snowpack information that helps determine how much runoff we can expect. Another tool is the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center. This center provides official forecasts of expected runoff volumes every two weeks. These forecasts are tracked on Army Corp of Engineer flood control diagrams that allow the District to evaluate available reservoir storage along both river systems with the forecasted April through July runoff volumes. The most important tool is the expertise of District staff, especially when you take into consideration the fact that all data and forecasts can dramatically change as a result of a single storm. Drawing on past experience and the above referenced information, the District decides how to operate the reservoirs in order to maximize storage potential and prevent downstream flooding.
Flood control operations on the Ogden River began in late March when the District began releasing water from Causey Reservoir. Releases from Pineview followed shortly thereafter and have continued to date.
The District continues to monitor the flood control situation daily and anticipates being able to fill all of our reservoirs while mitigating flooding risks along the Weber and Ogden rivers.
Even while entering the irrigation season with full reservoirs, wasteful watering habits result in the drawing down of much needed water storage much sooner than necessary. Please wait to water, and visit the District’s conservation website http://weberbasin.com/conservation to learn more about how all of our outdoor watering habits can help conserve and efficiently use this limited resource.