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West Valley City Journal

West Valley City residents, businesses cut water use despite hottest summer on record

Oct 04, 2022 12:58PM ● By Darrell Kirby

By Darrell Kirby | [email protected]

A record-breaking hot summer in 2022 coupled with the ongoing drought in Salt Lake County and the rest of Utah did no favors to the area’s already tight water supplies.

This summer saw 34 days that reached 100 degrees as recorded by the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City, shattering the old mark of 21 days in 2021, 1994 and 1960.

But the three water districts that serve West Valley City say they got through the hottest time of the year as well as could be expected thanks to the efforts of residents and businesses to cut their water use.

Granger-Hunter, Kearns and Magna improvement districts were able to keep the water flowing without major restrictions because customers in each district reduced their water consumption from 2021 levels by up to 13%.

It was 12% from January through August in the Granger-Hunter Improvement District, according to general manager Jason Helm.

He attributes a big part of the reduction to stepped-up public information campaigns that have convinced people of the growing urgency to slow the flow after meager to mediocre snowpacks the past few winters. “People of this community as well as other communities really took that to heart and there’s been a reduction in use,” Helm said.

Most savings came from a cutback in outdoor watering, which takes up most of the precious resource. Indoor use stays pretty consistent throughout the year.

Granger-Hunter has over 27,000 connections serving 132,000 residents and 7,330 businesses, the most of the three districts serving West Valley City.

The district purchases most of its water from the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District, which is a wholesale supplier to municipal water purveyors throughout Salt Lake County. “We’ve also got wells within our district that we will utilize” if Jordan Valley pulls back on deliveries, Helm said. He added that neither Granger-Hunter nor Jordan Valley are projecting cutbacks in the near future. If Mother Nature fails to come through this winter and next spring, that could change.

Similar water savings have occurred in the Kearns Improvement District, which serves a portion of southwestern West Valley City. General Manager Greg Anderson said by email that customers on the receiving end of the district’s 13,500 connections are using 13% less water so far this year than in 2021, thanks to several factors including “a strong tiered billing system combined with community outreach and effective conservation messaging.”

Since 2020, water use is down 21% in the district. Daily household water consumption is trending so far this year at 113 gallons per capita per day, 25 fewer gallons per day than in 2021 and well below the state goal of 187 gallons. “The Kearns Improvement District has among the lowest gallons per capita per day water use in the state of Utah,” Anderson said. The district itself is doing its part by not watering “significant portions of turf” around its offices and has stopped watering large turf areas around its water storage tank sites. Anderson said those efforts have saved over 5 million gallons of water so far this year.

In the Magna Water District, which serves 11,000 connections and 34,000 customers in the northwest part of West Valley City and all of Magna, homes and businesses have also heeded the call to cut back on water. Savings this year through July amounted to 10% compared to 2021, said general manager Clint Dilley. “We’ve seen quite the impressive response from our customers,” Dilley said. Dilley said the conservation comes even amid rapid growth in Magna and West Valley City with hundreds of new homes and industrial buildings going up. “We’re really pleased with how things are going.”

Dilley expects the district to get through what is left of the watering season with no anticipated early cut off of secondary, or irrigation, water. Much of that water is delivered from Utah Lake to  Magna Water District by canal companies. Those companies recently informed MWD that they would end deliveries in late September to preserve dropping lake levels.

Dilley said MWD is looking to create a more reliable source of secondary water by equipping its wastewater treatment plant (the district also provides sewer service) to treat more wastewater and pipe it back out for irrigation purposes. “Treated wastewater is pretty consistent. You’re not going to see huge fluctuations in (supplies),” Dilley said. “Why treat high quality water in our drinking water plant that’s pretty expensive just to go to lawns?” The trend is for new developments in MWD to be hooked up to infrastructure and meters to receive secondary water, while older properties must still use culinary water for outdoor purposes. 

The Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District is primarily a wholesale provider of water from area reservoirs to cities and local improvement districts, which supplement those supplies with various sources of their own, such as groundwater pulled from wells.

Linda Townes Cook, public information manager for Jordan Valley, said water demand so far this year generally has been down with a couple of exceptions. “August was five degrees hotter than last year resulting in a 13% rise in water deliveries,” she said. Record-breaking heat in early September also threatened to bump up water usage. Deliveries from January through July were down 15% because of greater conservation by residents and businesses. The goal for 2022 was 10%.

“We knocked it out of the park through July,” Townes Cook said.

Sixty percent of the Jordan Valley’s water is used outdoors and most of that is during just four months of the year. The largest sources of the district’s water are Jordanelle and Deer Creek reservoirs, which sat at a surprisingly high 67% and 49% of capacity through July. August and early September were likely to drop those water levels.

A wet fall is just as important as a heavy winter snowpack. Precipitation early and often before winter will help saturate the soil, allowing more winter and spring rain and snow to run along the  surface of the ground into waterways that feed reservoirs.

The prospects for 2023 water supplies come down to one thing. “We really are at the mercy of Mother Nature,” Townes Cook said. 

“We’re praying for a good winter,” Dilley added.