Citizen board will advise city on water conservation, drought management issues

The Moab City Council has established a water conservation and drought management advisory board to assist the city with water policy decisions. The council formally created the board during its Feb. 28 regular council meeting.

The city will begin advertising positions next week, said interim Moab city manager David Everitt, who estimated the board would begin meeting in a month or so.

Formation of the board was one of the goals of the water conservation plan that the city approved in December 2016.

“We’re a small town and we don’t always have the expertise on staff that we could have if we were a larger city,” said Everitt. “We have a lot of expertise in Grand County, and I think it’s important to tap into those human resources through having a board that helps advise policy makers and also provide recommendations on how to implement the conservation plan. I think it’s a great example of community engagement at work.”

The advisory board members will be appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the city council. City staff will review the applications and make recommendations for the first board appointments, and the board will make recommendations to the mayor for future appointments, according to the ordinance. Four board members will be appointed to two-year terms and three will be appointed to three-year terms but all subsequent appointments will be for two-year terms, the ordinance states.

Between 1998 and 2015, the city increased its per capita water usage by 14 percent, city officials have said. In the past, it seemed that there was abundant water compared to the rate of use, so the city “has not been aggressive in pursuing water conservation measures,” according to the 2016 water conservation plan.

Based on “new information about culinary water scarcity” and the fast pace of residential and commercial development, the conservation plan recommends aggressive conservation measures. The plan focuses on reducing outdoor use of culinary water and protecting water quality, with the goal of water use by 25 percent in the next five years. In addition to the formation of the water advisory board, the plan calls for establishing a regional water authority.

Last fall, preliminary findings from an ongoing U.S. Geological Survey study of groundwater in the Moab watershed indicated that there might be less groundwater available for use than previously thought. The study will be completed next year.

Arne Hultquist, watershed coordinator for the Moab Area Watershed Partnership, wrote to the city in support of forming the committee. A water advisory board would bring people and ideas together to help city water planners avoid pitfalls and will contribute to city government transparency, Hultquist said.

ByBy Rose Egelhoff

The Times-Independent