Although Tooele County was pounded with rain last week, it wasn’t enough to decrease local water officials’ worries about the upcoming summer and drought that may follow.
Gary Bevan, president of Settlement Canyon Irrigation Company, said as of Monday morning, Settlement Canyon Reservoir was at a height of 43 feet, 6 inches, which is about 17 feet below the spillway.
“That’s not looking good at all,” he said. “That’s way down from where we should be. It’s just going to be another drought year.”
Lynn Taylor, watermaster for Grantsville Irrigation Company, said things are looking grim at Grantsville Reservoir, too.
“We are still way under where we should be,” he said. “Pretty soon the snowpack will all be gone and the reservoir will start coming down, but we will deal with it the best we can.”
Monica Traphagan, forecaster for the National Weather Service office in Salt Lake City, said the overall precipitation total for May in Tooele County has not been calculated yet, but the May total for Stansbury Park was 1.48 inches. She said this amount should be similar to the rest of Tooele Valley. About a half-inch of that rain fell just during the storms the county had last week.
In comparison, during the month of May, the Salt Lake International Airport saw 1.26 inches of precipitation. The normal value for precipitation in May in Salt Lake City is 1.95 inches.
The precipitation Tooele County did see wasn’t enough to increase water levels in local reservoirs.
Bevan said last year at this time, Settlement Canyon reservoir was at a height of 55 feet, 2 inches. It didn’t decrease to a level of 43 feet until July 9.
“We are way low from where we were last year,” he said. “We’ve got good runoff [coming from Settlement Canyon Creek] but it’s not getting to the reservoir without a pipeline.”
Bevan said another source of runoff, Rocky Ridge Spring, typically starts flowing into the reservoir around Memorial Day, but this year, he hasn’t seen anything.
“What we’re hoping for is the Rocky Ridge Spring to come in, because historically it comes in around Memorial Day,” he said. “This year, there’s not a drop coming in from it.”
Bevan said the snowpack in Settlement Canyon is now nonexistent — the Rocky Basin measuring station is now at 0 percent. A month ago, it was at 97 percent of normal.
“Right now people better plan on a pretty lean water year,” he said. “A year ago it was a bad year, and we had 55 feet in the reservoir and now we’ve only got 43 feet. It’s not good. People need to conserve now if they want water in August and September.”
Taylor said although water levels in the reservoir are currently rising, that doesn’t mean Grantsville residents are in good shape.
“It’s not rising because of rain or snow, it’s rising because people shut off their water to cut their first [crop of] hay,” he said. “Farmers take a lot more water. They need about five inches of water for a field.”
Taylor said most people also don’t realize that the reservoir needs to refill up three times to serve Grantsville throughout the entire water season.
“Just because the reservoir is 6 or 7 feet from being full doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “The reservoir holds 3,400 acre feet, but it takes 10,000 acre feet to take care of our whole system.”
Taylor said all county residents can hope for now is a lot of rain and be prepared to battle more drought conditions.
“I hope that we get a lot of rain, but we’ve got to deal with what we’ve got,” he said. “Last week’s [storms] helped a lot, but throughout the whole month of May, we only got about one and a half inches of precipitation. We’ll just have to see what the rest of the summer does.”