Water restrictions on tap amid concerns of not enough water to fight fires

Stock Photo | St. George News / Cedar City News

ENOCH CITY – With Enoch residents reducing the water levels faster than city wells are capable of replenishing, officials are concerned there may not be enough water to fight fires in the near future.

The fast depletion of the city’s water has prompted the City Council to call a special meeting Friday at 1 p.m. to discuss further water restrictions on residents. The meeting will be held at the Enoch City Council Chambers, 900 E. Midvalley Road.

The city wells hold about 4.5 million gallons of water and residents are using an average of 3 million gallons a day. That’s a big problem, City Manager Rob Dotson said.

“If you have 4.5 million gallons but you’re using 3 million gallons every day the wells aren’t going to fill back up in a 24-hour period so it’s going to create a deficit,” Dotson said.

The council restricted water usage last month to the hours of 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. This time, officials are considering either passing a resolution or ordinance that would restrict outdoor watering to odd and even days based on addresses.

Under the ordinance, residents would be cited with an infraction for not following the watering schedule while a resolution would have no penalties attached.

With conditions extremely dry right now, officials are largely concerned about having enough water, specifically water pressure, to fight fires, Dotson said.

The council is hopeful by ramping up water restrictions the water levels will return to capacity, giving officials more confidence in the city’s ability to keep residents and their properties safe.

Another concern for Enoch City Council members is the ongoing water issues nearly all of Iron County is currently facing under a state-imposed groundwater management plan.

In January 2016, representatives from the Utah Division of Water Rights held a public meeting at Cedar High School warning residents and officials that the Cedar Valley aquifer was supplying more water into the communities than is available, resulting in overmining. The aquifer provides most of the water to Cedar City, Enoch, Kanarraville and the unincorporated areas in Iron County.

Read More: Overappropriation of water rights threatens Iron County

Division Assistant State Engineer James Greer presented figures showing that the aquifer can safely yield 21,000 acre-feet of water on an annual basis but instead was generating an estimated 28,000 acre-feet, or 7,000 more acre-feet than it can handle.

Water is typically measured in acre-feet, referring to the volume of water that would cover 1 acre to a depth of 1 foot. One acre-foot is equal to about 326,000 gallons, enough water for one year for a family of four.

Part of the issue for the overmined aquifer dates back to the 1960s when state officials appropriated more water rights than available in Iron County, Greer admitted at the time. Two decades of lower than normal precipitation has also taken its toll on the aquifer.

The groundwater management plan was ordered by State Water Engineer Kent Jones to restore the rapidly depleting aquifer that, he said, at then-current yields could not continue to meet Iron County’s water demands.

Jones threatened then to begin eliminating water rights issued after 1935 if the county was unable to find a way to recharge the aquifer.

Since then, the Central Iron County Water Conservancy District has worked to correct the issue including; the negotiation of additional water rights, building new recharge pits to put more water into the aquifer and promoting conservation efforts.

Read More: Searching for new water sources and ways to bring balance to the aquifer

Dotson sits on the 10-member committee working to create the groundwater management plan.

“It is possible to have a beautiful lawn and water less,” Dotson said. “We don’t expect people to kill their grass but we do need their cooperation to help us not only deal with the issue at hand, which is bringing the water in the wells to safe levels, but to also educate themselves on the issues we’re facing as a county.”

Email: tsullivan@stgnews.com

Twitter: @tracie_sullivan

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

 

 

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1 Comment

  • knobe July 7, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    Too many people think it’s like the last century when
    one could turn a hose on for the trees & leave it running for a whole day .

    Strangely they are oblivious to the years of drying out trees whose roots no longer reach water
    and are even clueless about the massive scope of fires .

    Not to worry tho . . . as soon as they turn on the tap & Nothing comes out , they might wake up to reality .

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