Though county’s water outlook is good, water manager still urges people to conserve

ST. GEORGE — Washington County “is sitting very well” when it comes to water storage for the coming summer thanks to another winter with above average snowpack.

A map detailing the snowpack across Utah on May 1, 2020 | Image courtesy of the National Weather and Climate Center, St. George News | Click to enlarge.

“We had about 120% above normal snowfall and we have a really good snowpack,” Zach Renstrom, general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District, told St. George News.

As of May 1, according to National Resources Conversation Service’s National Weather and Climate Center, southwest Utah leads the rest of the state with 120% snowpack, with the northeastern part of the state coming in second at 104%.

Thanks to the extremely wet winter the county experienced at the beginning of 2019, Renstrom said the county was doing well going into the current water year that began Nov. 1. Coupled with this year’s snowpack and the county is doing “very well,” he said.

“We entered this water year with good reservoir storage and then we got a really good snowpack,” Renstrom said. “So right now, all of our reservoirs are essentially at 100% capacity.”

With the reservoirs at capacity, excess runoff from the remaining snowpack at elevations of 8,000-plus feet is being allowed to “spill over” as it doesn’t need to be captured in the county reservoirs, allowing the water to flow on down to Lake Mead, which has been in need of replenishment.

Zach Renstrom, general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District, St. George News

Renstrom said this year is a close second to 2019, which was the best year for water he’s ever seen. However, he said the weather can be fickle.

“We had a very wet spring, then a record-breaking dry spell,” Renstrom said, noting last year’s four-month stretch without any measurable amount of rainfall.

Fortunately, the county has the reservoirs to fall back on, or else the end of the 2019 summer would have been “horrific,” he said.

Still, while the county has an adequate amount of water storage for the upcoming summer and beyond, Renstrom stressed that people still need to practice water conservation.

“We always want people to conserve,” he said. “That’s the biggest message I can send to people.”

Sand Hollow Reservoir, Hurricane, Utah, June 28, 2016 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

That’s one of the problems in the water business, Renstrom said. You can tell people they have great reservoirs and some think they can use as much water as they want despite water district advisories to the contrary.

“It’s a tough message both ways,” he said.

County water officials will nonetheless tout the water district and county’s conservation efforts they say helped save one billion gallons of water between 2010 and 2015, according to state data.

The water district provides tips and resources to county residents concerning water conservation plans and practices. It also offers programs and workshops that focus on creating water-efficient landscapes. However, events hosted by the water district are currently on hold until the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

Project wise, the water district has completed construction on the Sand Hollow Regional Pipeline and is now working on a water storage tank that will be built near an existing storage tank in Washington City.

Progress on the Ash Creek Project that would create the Toquer Reservoir in the Anderson Junction area of the county has experienced some setbacks and may not see construction begin until fall 2021, Renstrom said.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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