With precipitation in southeastern Utah at 46 percent of normal and snow water equivalent at zero percent according the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Utah Water Supply Outlook Report, a severe drought in the region is continuing in full force. On May 2, the Grand Water and Sewer Service Agency responded, passing deeper restrictions on Ken’s Lake water users. Lake users will be restricted to 50 percent of their allotment until such time as the agency sees fit to lift the restrictions.
“Over the past month snow packs have been melting fast and stream flow response has been poor … Add to that the amount of snowpack left in our mountains and the likelihood for improved stream flow is pretty bleak,” states the NRCS Utah Climate and Water Report for May. The seasonal accumulation of precipitation (October through April) was 1.3 inches at the start of May, the report states.
Planning for a dry year, agency board members started off the irrigation season on April 2 with 30 percent cuts. At the time GWSSA Manager Dana Van Horn described the area’s water outlook as “pathetic.” Now it’s a “dire situation.”
Van Horn cut her original estimate of snow runoff by 50 percent, estimating that the lake will get 600 acre-feet of runoff this summer, which Van Horn described as, “desperate conservative.”
“This year is a little anomalous because we started out with a bunch of water in the lake but we just didn’t get enough snow. Even having somewhat decent snow, now the runoff has turned to garbage. It’s really nothing,” Van Horn said.
With the estimated 600 acre-feet, pumping from wells and current water levels, the agency is estimating that there will be 1,720 acre-feet of water available for the season. With 3,422 acre-feet allotted for the rest of the year, Van Horn recommended that the board pass a 50-percent restriction on users to conserve the remaining water.
“Every time we talk about this it’s subject to change. We could get 15 rainstorms in a row and the restrictions will be lifted or reduced,” Van Horn said.
A paltry silver lining is that there may be free fishing days to limit the number of fish dying on the beach.
“The other good news about levels going down in the lake is we get to look for holes [and] be able to do a lake inspection. We haven’t gotten it down to the conservation pool [for several years],” Van Horn added.
Board member and hay farmer Gary Wilson noted that implementing restrictions might scare off water customers who decide that Ken’s Lake is not a reliable source.
“Next year you may have less customers because if everybody’s hay burns up they’ll just quit buying the water. It’s a given. You can’t continue down this route. It’s no one’s fault but ... that’s a fairly dramatic situation for people that are in business. If it’s your front lawn it’s one thing but when it’s your business it’s a totally different story. There’s no other options for us, of course, so we’ll just see what happens,” Wilson said.
The board passed the restrictions unanimously.
“I personally think your estimate at 50 percent sounds pretty good ... without the crystal ball,” said board president Dan Pyatt.
Van Horn said that she is authorized to end restrictions at any time, if the board requests her to do so. She said she would revisit the restrictions every two weeks and request the board’s permission to end them if or when there is more rain or an unexpected level of snow runoff, or if some users do not use their full allotment.
Van Horn also said the agency will read meters monthly and send letters to keep users apprised of their water use.