Water, fire professionals say situation is dire this summerAug 05, 2021 09:28AM ● By Linda Petersen
The Firebreak road goes from the north boundary of Centerville and into both Farmington and Bountiful. The road is a critical asset when it comes to fighting fires and protecting the city. Courtesy CPD
CENTERVILLE—Mayor Clark Wilkinson recently gathered some local water and fire professionals virtually to give residents an update on the water situation this summer. Their news was grim.
The Weber Basin Water Conservancy District typically stores 200,000 to 220, 000-acre feet of water prior to the season; this year it stored just 7,000 acre-feet, Darren Hess, assistant general manager over operations reported June 25.
“That’s virtually nothing, or just 3 percent of the normal storage that we typically have,” he said.
Local reservoirs typically hold a two-year supply when they are full.
“This year is historic; we have not seen a year where we’ve had this little run-off in the 75 years that we’ve recorded run-off, water supplies… It’s the worst one we’ve seen, particularly on the main stem of the Weber River,” Hess said.
In late-March the water district advised its users, both agricultural and residential, that it would be requiring them to cut back their water consumption by 20 percent. This year the district has also had to use their drought relief pump station which pumps water out of Willard Bay to Davis and Weber Canal Companies system, to their canal. (WNWCD exchanges water with those irrigation companies so that it can then utilize water from East Canyon or Echo Reservoirs).
“We haven’t run that pump station in 16 years,” Hess reported.
WBWCD is expected to shut off the canals on Oct. 1, but that date could be moved up if the reservoirs continue to drop at a significant level, he said. The public can help by conserving water wherever possible and by watering only twice a week.
“We are asking for the public to help us and we really need to see a lot of straw colored or brown lawns out there this year just because we don’t have the water like we’d like to because of the historic drought,” Hess said.
Things are not any better for Centerville Deuel Creek Irrigation Company, President Robert Burns said. “Our stream flow is quite low. Right now, about one eighth of our water that we’re using in our system is coming from local streams; the rest is coming from Weber Basin. That will increase as we get into the hotter months; we won’t be able to sustain our reservoir once Weber Basin stops delivering water.”
Centerville Public Works Director Mike Carlson said he has been concerned for quite some time about the state of the aquifer.
“We’re not in great shape anyway,” he said.” We’re OK but our main purpose is to provide culinary drinking water; I’m concerned about demand on our wells.”
Carlson said he is also worried that some residents may attempt to connect their culinary water up to their irrigation system to supplement their outside water supply. This could lead to cross-contamination and health risks for affected individuals, he said.
While the city is implementing conservation practices, Carlson wanted residents to know that the city has an independent subsurface water source (groundwater) at Community Park and as such, it will be watered more heavily than other city parks and facilities.
“We either pump water to the west or we can pump it up on the lawn,” he said. “We want to keep a spot where citizens can go where they can be on some good grass. So, we’re going to be trying to keep them going as best as we can.”
Fire is an ever-present danger in Centerville, Dave Stone, South Davis Metro Fire chief said. “Centerville having an urban interface up on the east side is always a concern for us. This time of year … is always a concern. Obviously, this year is a little bit more because of the drought situation and the lack of water we’ve got now.”
Stone urged all residents to forgo personal fireworks this year and to instead attend municipal fireworks shows for the July holidays. The firefighters who respond to those fires caused by fireworks or grass fires also man the ambulances, potentially leaving those services strained if they are called out frequently, he said.
Centerville Police Chief Paul Child who is also the city’s emergency management director expressed concern about people recreating in the foothills.
“People continue to go up in the bowl area and foothills area and light fires,” he said. “The dangers of people going up and lighting fires on the mountainside is real.”
His officers are going to be a lot more aggressive in their enforcement “due to the dire situation we’re in right now,” he said. He also urged people in areas where there is dry grass around their homes to develop some defensible space.
“I’m hoping all residents of Centerville will find this useful,” Wilkinson said as he concluded the presentation. “This is not meant to scare… These are all common-sense good things. We can get through this if we work together, if we follow these guidelines, if we’re considerate of our neighbors.”
The full presentation may be found at https://youtu.be/3POWPZgyixs