City discusses water conservation, need for new options for sales to non-culinary users
by Laura Haley
Contributing Writer
Feb 27, 2014 | 3256 views | 0 0 comments | 61 61 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Spring-fed surplus culinary water from the city’s storage tank off Powerhouse Lane flows into a nearby gulch on Feb. 13. Photo by Rudy Herndon
Spring-fed surplus culinary water from the city’s storage tank off Powerhouse Lane flows into a nearby gulch on Feb. 13. Photo by Rudy Herndon
After several years of meager snowpack and continued drought, concerns about water are on the rise, yet water usage is also continuing on an upward trend, according to data provided by Moab City Manager Donna Metzler at the Feb. 25 Moab City Council meeting.

In 2013, the average household in Moab used 185,000 gallons of water. That’s a marked increase from 170,000 gallons per household in 2010. Metzler said that, while Moab’s water use still falls below the state average, it’s higher than the 150,000 gallons per year recommended by the American Water Works Association.

Metzler said the city obtains its water from a variety of sources, including springs and wells.

“The people who were involved with the city many years ago were able to think forward and acquire water rights from a number of different sources,” she said. “We’re in a good situation in respect to having a lot of good water that we are provided largely via ground flow and pumping.”

Of the six wells for which the city holds water rights, Metzler said only two are currently in use. A 2010 study showed that the city only used around 40 percent of the total water for which it holds rights.

According to Moab City Engineer Rebecca Andrus, all of that water comes from the Glen Canyon aquifer. However, without a comprehensive water study, there is no definitive date on how much that aquifer can continue to supply.

Moab City Council member Kyle Bailey said a recent study showed that the water coming from the aquifer is anywhere from 40 year to 1,000 years old.

“It’s completely irreplaceable,” he said. “We’ll pump it dry if we’re not careful.”

Metzler said city-owned entities are the biggest water users, with the Moab Golf Course using 40 million gallons per year, and the wastewater treatment plant using an additional 13 million gallons per year.

“In comparison, the average motel uses 4 [million] to 7 million gallons per year,” she said, depending on the size of their lawn and their landscaping.

Outdoor water usage is the biggest concern, Metzler said. She noted that residents use up to five times more water during the summer months than they do in the winter.

Council member Gregg Stucki said that conserving water inside a house by, for instance, flushing toilets less frequently, isn’t necessarily effective, because the wastewater treatment plant then must use more water to process the more concentrated waste.

“Any water you conserve in the house is probably offset by water being added at the treatment plant,” he said.

Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison said city entities should address their water usage in order to set a good example for the rest of the residents.

“We didn’t really realize what was happening,” he said. “We need to get our house in order.”

Sakrison pushed for the city to find a way to do a comprehensive water study that would look at all the water sources.

“I think we need a regional approach,” he said, adding that he has spoken to representatives in San Juan and Grand County about teaming up for the study.

Council member Kirstin Peterson echoed the need for a study.

“We need a definitive study to help us look at the entire system,” she said. “We look at it as how much can we take out. We need to look at how much do we need to leave in to maintain the health of the system. It could be that leaving some flow in the springs is more important than the money saved by not pumping.”

Andrus said that the city uses all of the flow from the springs during summer months before pumping from the wells.

“About 60 percent of the water used in the summer is provided by wells,” she said.

She previously told The Times-Independent that the city regularly releases some water from its storage tanks into Mill Creek in the winter months because the tanks do not have the capacity to hold all the water during those times when demand is less.

Andrus said the city is working with an engineering firm and one of the things they’re hoping to look at is the water system.

“We’re going to look at the optimization of our system,” she said. “We’ll be looking at rates, practices, etc.”

The council discussed forming a committee to review the city’s conservation plan and come up with ideas to help decrease water usage. Sakrison said the golf course is hoping to install a new irrigation system to help cut usage, and Metzler suggested considering a more efficient system at the wastewater treatment plant.

She also raised the issue of trying to find non-culinary water sources for non-culinary uses.

The discussion about non-culinary use arose after some local citizens and council member Heila Ershadi recently voiced concerns about the amount of water being bought from the city for use at mineral exploration sites. Harrison Oil Field Services is the largest purchaser of water from the Moab City Yard. The water is then trucked out to drilling sites in the area.

Bailey said the Grand Water and Sewer Service Agency is interested in finding a way to install a pump station at the Colorado River to help supply water for some of those needs.

“The city appears to have enough water for the time being,” Metzler said. “But water conservation and production monitoring are important.”

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