Hildale prepares for potential water restrictions ahead of a long, hot summer

Hildale City Well 25 is being drilled May 28, 2024 | Photo courtesy Hildale City, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — As temperatures begin to ratchet up across the West, many cities, counties and states are digging out well-worn playbooks on how to continue to provide an uninterrupted flow of water to their residents.

During the past three decades, cities across America – particularly in California and Nevada – have focused on expanding their water resources, improving local supplies and implementing conservation initiatives aimed at using water more efficiently.

In many respects, Hildale City is no different, yet an aging infrastructure – more than 40 years old in some parts of town – has city officials taking action ahead of what promises to be another long, hot summer.

Jerry Postema, Hildale City utility director, said he is hoping for the best this summer but bracing for the worst.

“Overall, we are doing quite well, but we haven’t hit the hot and dry part of the summer, but as in the past we anticipated and experienced some challenges along the way,” Postema said. “I think we might go into water restrictions if it turns out to be a hot, dry summer and we start losing water in our storage tanks. If these start to go down and production is not meeting the needs of the community then that’s when we start to consider options like water restrictions.”

Postema has good reason for concern.

The summer of 2023 was Earth’s hottest since global records began in 1880, according to an analysis by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York.

At the time, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson issued a no-so veiled warning of what the globe may face in years and decades to come.

“Summer 2023’s record-setting temperatures (weren’t) just a set of numbers – they (were a) result in dire real-world consequences,” Nelson said. “From sweltering temperatures in Arizona and across the country to wildfires across Canada, and extreme flooding in Europe and Asia, extreme weather is threatening lives and livelihoods around the world. The impacts of climate change are a threat to our planet and future generations.”

Seasonal Temperature Outlook for 2024 | Illustration courtesy National Oceanic Atmosphere Administration, St. George News

Along with the summers of 2011 and 2012, raking in the top sixth hottest recorded in North America, 2016 – 2023 rounded out nine of the top 10 hottest years, with 2021 ranked No. 2, 2022 No. 4 and 2023 No. 1.

According to nearly every available weather model, 2024 is stacking up to beat 2023 and become one of the five hottest years ever recorded. April alone was the hottest April ever recorded globally, with North America notching the second warmest April on record as well as the second hottest January-April.

The most recent National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration climate prediction indicates that temperatures are expected to increase across nearly all regions of the United States throughout the summer. The forecast, covering June through August, suggests a warmer-than-average summer for almost every state.

In Western states, such as Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and parts of Colorado, there is a 60% to 70% chance of experiencing above-average temperatures as well as below-average precipitation during the next three months.

Although 2024 is anticipated to be sweltering hot across the board, it will pale in comparison to what the weather models predict for what may lay ahead, said Karin Gleason with NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information in a recent interview with National Public Radio.

“We’re likely to see even hotter summers coming, with even more temperature records broken, Gleason said. “We are at record levels for 11 consecutive months now … and we’re still counting.”

To meet its needs, Hildale City has implemented a suite of measures intended to upgrade and augment water delivery ahead of the necessary conditions to impose water restrictions; these include assessment of impact fees on new water connections, grant funding to upgrade current infrastructure and an update to its water meter system.

“If we don’t get rain and the temperatures continue to climb over the next five to seven days, we could begin water restrictions in the next week or two,” Postema said.

One of the most noticeable signs of a city in action is upgrades at two of Hildale’s 12 wells.

Postema said the city is in the process of bringing two wells into production: the Academy Well, anticipated to be up and running sometime this month, pending a positive state permit review, and Well 17, which has been drilled and outfitted but is awaiting state permits. If approved, Well 17 could be in production in July.

When it is brought online, Well 17 is anticipated to produce between 300,000 – 350,000 gallons per day. When the permitting process is complete, the Academy Well is estimated to produce between 200,000 – 275,000 gallons per day.

Hildale City is in the midst of a growth spurt, but city officials realize that their town can only grow as large as the amount of water it has to provide to its residents. Stock image | Photo by volgariver/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

In addition to these two wells, the city is in the process of drilling two new wells in Colorado City under a cooperative agreement established between Utah and Arizona dating back to the 1960s. This project is funded by the America Plan Recovery Act. The wells won’t be ready this summer; however, Postema anticipates the new wells could be in production this fall. Based on the intergovernmental agreement, the communities will split the water based on the customers’ needs.

According to Hildale’s Water Master Plan (January 2024) the city is projected to experience 12% growth annually during the next five-10 years. At this time, the growth rate is expected to drop to 10% annually.

“Our intent is, and the councils’ very supportive of revising our master plan in three to five years to make sure that we are on target, meeting our goals and expectations, and that we’re being proactive to make sure we are taking care of things for our residents. We have a lot of capacity for growth, but growth depends on how much water we have,” Postema said.

In a perfect world, with enough water, Hildale could support many more people than its current population of 1,127, Postema said.

“In 10 years, based on the growth projections, Hildale’s population could grow to approximately 10,000 people by 2034,” he added. “To meet this growth, an additional five to six wells would need to be developed, and more than 2 million gallons of new water storage (capability) would need to be built.”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2024, all rights reserved.

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