OGDEN — Officials from Pineview Water Systems say if people don’t curb their secondary water usage now, this year’s irrigation season could be cut off as early as August.
PWS General Manager Ben Quick says that due to an exceptionally dry 2020 summer and with 2021 spring runoff currently at 17% of average, PWS’s portion of the Pineview Reservoir does not have enough water to meet normal irrigation needs for the remainder of the season. PWS shares water in the reservoir with Weber Basin Water Conservancy District.
Quick says the current forecast shows that if water is used at the same rate that it was used during the 2020 irrigation season, PWS will run out of water in the third week of August. Subsequently, Quick says PWS is placing a priority on reserving water for culinary and agricultural uses, which could result in PWS shutting off water for all residential irrigation during the first of week of August.
That forewarning isn’t set in stone, Quick said, particularly if Northern Utah residents switch quickly into conservation mode, but it’s definitely in play.
Quick said that in order to extend the secondary water irrigation season as long as possible, people should focus on keeping their turf and other vegetation “alive rather than vibrant.” He said residential and institutional watering should be limited to two irrigation cycles per week. After a decent rain storm, at least one of those irrigation cycles should be cut. According to the Utah Division of Natural Resources, one irrigation cycle consists of 20 minutes with traditional pop-up spray sprinkler heads or 40 minutes with impact rotor sprinklers.
When reached by phone on Tuesday afternoon, Quick seemed exasperated by Utah’s current drought situation.
“I’d be doing a lot better if we had some more water,” he said.
According to the National Integrated Drought Information System, 100% of Weber County is in a “severe drought,” the third most significant drought classification under the NIDIS monitoring system. NIDIS says 65% of the county is in the “extreme drought” phase, the second most significant classification. According to the NIDIS, all of the following can be present during an extreme drought: pasture and water is inadequate for cattle, air quality is poor, dust is a problem, national vegetation is stressed and fire danger increases.
PWS provides water for nine communities along the northern Wasatch Front, including Ogden, North Ogden, Pleasant View, Harrisville, Farr West, Plain City, South Ogden, Washington Terrace and Perry. Quick said PWS currently has accumulated just over 14,000 acre feet of water so far this year. Normally, by this time of year the number is typically around 92,000 acre feet, Quick said. The current water supply, he added, is close to PWS’s all-time low, which occurred in 1992.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Utah had more population growth over the past decade than any other state in the nation, a trend that’s expected to continue. The University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute predicts Utah’s population will double, reaching more than 6 million residents, by 2065.
With less water and more people, Quick said the time is at hand for all Utahns — from average, everyday citizens to those in the highest levels of government — to rethink water usage.
“Water will be the limiting resource that will dictate how much we can grow,” Quick said. “Eventually, we’re really going to have to reassess where we put our water. And I’m not sure that putting as much water on grass as we do right now is going to be the best answer.”