Ken’s Lake irrigation water users may see water restrictions of 30 percent this year under a plan being considered by the Grand Water and Sewer Service Agency.
The agency’s board held off from making any firm decision about water restrictions at a meeting on Thursday, March 1, choosing instead to wait two weeks and see if storms anticipated over the weekend would change things at all.
“One or two storms could put us in a different position,” said GWSSA Manager Dana Van Horn, as she explained an irrigation-water restriction recommendation she had developed.
That recommendation would delay the start of the irrigation season until sometime between April 1 and April 15, which is up to a month later than the “right-on-time” start date of March 15. After water becomes available, users would be restricted to 70 percent of their actual allotment.
Van Horn prefaced the recommendation with a presentation about the current water situation — or non-water situation, as the case may be.
Van Horn estimated there would be a 1,183 acre-feet shortage of water this year, which is about 32 percent shy of what’s needed to fully supply water users’ allotments.
The problem, she pointed out, is that Ken’s Lake is already low, but so is the snowpack that could recharge it this spring and summer.
As of last week, Ken’s Lake was at half capacity, and runoff from snowpack — at least as it then existed — isn’t expected to replenish it sufficiently. According to figures Van Horn presented, the snow-water equivalent (or, “how wet the snow is,” as Van Horn explained) is 62 percent of the median. Since the water year began in October, the area’s precipitation is 51 percent of average.
Going back at least six years, Van Horn said, this is the first time that both Ken’s Lake and mountain snowpack have been so low (though a chart she presented showed 2015 came close). That fact lent itself to some difficulty in developing the recommendation. “It’s really hard to make a determination on trending when the trend is not like any other year,” she said.
She emphasized that her numbers were estimates and projections, and that things could always — and hopefully — change.
With the current situation, however, GWSSA board member Dale Weiss became concerned about the possibility of Ken’s Lake running completely dry.
“Is there a way to keep people from using so much water at the beginning that we have nothing left at the end?” she asked.
The short answer from other board members was no, “At least, not with this recommendation,” Van Horn said.
Board President Dan Pyatt said, “We feel we’re going on the conservative side.”
However, there is still a concern about what Board Member Ken Helfenbein called “panic watering,” when people use all of the water they can up front because they’re scared about not having any later. “We need to address that,” he said.
The board plans to adopt a final plan for water restrictions at its meeting on March 15.
In the meantime, said Board Member Preston Paxman, “I’m hoping we don’t have to restrict, that we get a heck of a snowstorm.”