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Weber County’s flow of secondary water will soon start slowing

By Tim Vandenack - | Sep 1, 2021

BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

A sprinkler moistens a lawn in Pleasant View on Wednesday, June 9, 2021.

WEST HAVEN — The flow of irrigation water will start turning to a trickle on Wednesday, at least for West Haven residents.

Supplies for some homeowners in parts of North Ogden, Ogden and South Ogden — Pineview Water Systems customers — will start seeing the flow of secondary water slow down on Sept. 10.

To the east in the Wolf Creek area of the Ogden Valley, limited water supplies have prompted water officials there — the Wolf Creek Water and Sewer Improvement District Board of Trustees — to stop allowing new connections into the water system altogether. That puts the kibosh on new housing development in the area south of the Powder Mountain ski resort, at least for now.

The drought that has led to yellow lawns across Weber County and many other parts of Utah isn’t over. It just lingers on, and now, with secondary water providers starting to halt operations early, things enter a new phase.

Whereas homeowners faced calls over the summer to scale back lawn-watering to preserve dwindling water supplies, now they won’t be able to water at all, at least with untreated irrigation water, also known as secondary water. The shift is earlier than normal. Though West Haven, within a network served by the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, faces an earlier cut-off date than other locales, all the announced stoppage dates in Weber County are earlier than the norm in mid-October.

Outside of West Haven, the other locales served by the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District face a cut-off date of Sept. 20, same as Roy Water Conservancy District customers in Roy. The Weber Basin Water Conservancy District serves parts of Washington Terrace, southern South Ogden and southern Ogden.

BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner Sprinklers run in a field along Pleasant View Drive in Pleasant View on Wednesday, June 9, 2021.

‘STILL VERY WORRISOME’

The drought this year stems most immediately from the lack of snowfall and snowpack in the mountains of the Wasatch Front last winter, the key source of water for the area. Snowpack supplies the Pineview Reservoir and other reservoirs as well as natural springs in the area and other water sources.

Matt Haack, Ogden’s water conservation coordinator, noted that Pineview’s water level is currently at about 20% capacity. By comparison, Pineview was at 70% capacity on Aug. 1 a year ago, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“It’s still very worrisome because we don’t know what the winter is going to look like. We don’t know if we’re going to get a good recharge or not,” Haack said. How much snow falls this coming winter will be key in determining how much water levels at Pineview and elsewhere rebound next spring.

Likewise, Rob Thomas, general manager of the Wolf Creek Water and Sewer Improvement District, or WCWSID, noted dwindling water levels in the wells and natural springs that supply the district and its customers. It’s so bad that the WCWSID board of trustees decided in late July to stop granting permission for new water connections for new development.

They’ll reevaluate the decision in March after seeing how much snow falls over the winter, key in recharging water supplies. Still, it’s the first time trustees have had to take such action, Thomas said. Without water connections, developers can’t get building permits, essentially stymieing new growth.

“We don’t have enough sources to be able to serve more customers at this time,” Thomas said, and finding new water sources has proven difficult.

The move has caused grumbling among some looking “to build their dream home” in the Ogden Valley, he said. The WCWSID covers an expansive, growing area north of Eden and south of Powder Mountain.

The district’s priority, though, is with existing customers. “There’s no reason they should sacrifice for new construction,” Thomas said.

As for West Haven’s dubious distinction of being the first locale in Weber County to see its secondary water turned off, Matt Jensen said it’s a function of the source of the irrigation water used in the city. Jensen is West Haven’s city manager.

The secondary water comes from irrigation companies operating in the area, which pull water chiefly from rivers that have less capacity than, say, Pineview Reservoir, he said. At any rate, while some residents worry about their yards, most seem to accept the early cut-off date.

Plans to halt the flow of secondary water earlier than normal have been a focus of debate all summer among water officials, prompting complaints from some customers and suggestions they won’t get their fair share of water. Homeowners typically pay for secondary water on their property tax bills.

In Pineview’s Aug. 18 notice announcing the Sept. 10 cut-off date for its customers, though, it noted that its varied affiliates are nonprofit organizations or political subdivisions.

Funds collected “are used for operating expenses, infrastructure repairs and system improvements,” according to the notice. “In order to maintain the operating budgets, there will be no pro-rated rebates or refunds available to customers for the shortened water season.”

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