“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”
Despite facing the longest sustained drought in more than ten years, the two municipalities in San Juan County are hopeful for a green summer.
The close of another dry winter suggests a limited spring run-off. Blanding and Monticello have taken different approaches to deal with water issues.
In Blanding, an aggressive plan to expand water storage capacity and drill deep wells has dramatically expanded the water resources held by the community.
At the current time, the city holds more water in storage than the entire system had the capacity to hold during the last sustained drought, which peaked in 2002.
The major project in that effort was to increase the capacity of the Fourth Reservoir, which is northwest of the city.
At the current time, the total carrying capacity of city reservoirs is 2,800 acre-feet of water. In comparison, the carrying capacity in 2002 was just 1,100 acre-feet.
The City of Blanding currently holds more than 1,240 acre-feet of water in reservoirs, despite several years of drier than normal winters.
In an additional move to increase water resources since the last sustained drought, the City of Blanding drilled three wells deep into the Navajo sandstone. They are capable of providing culinary-quality water to the community.
The city plans to pump approximately 200 acre-feet of water from the deep wells in 2014.
Blanding does not anticipate having watering restrictions in the coming months because of the existing water in reservoirs, coupled with the pumping capacity of the deep wells,
The Blanding City Council discussed the matter at their March 11 council meeting. The strategy is to aggressively discourage water waste, while asking for conservation and letting city residents manage their water use.
In a typical year, Blanding residents use about 650 acre-feet of culinary water.
The limited snow-pack in surrounding mountains suggests that there will be little to no water for irrigation purposes in 2014. Recapture Reservoir currently holds 530 acre-feet of water, which is below the conservation pool.
In Monticello, two new developments promise to lessen the drought’s stress on city water resources. Monticello runs two separate water systems: one for culinary water and one for secondary water.
A new deep well, drilled at the Hideout Golf Course, can pump more than 100 gallons a minute directly into the city culinary system. While the output of the new well is lower than city officials had hoped, it will still be able to meet one half of the city’s peak use of 200 gallons per minute of culinary water.
A second well is set to be drilled near the Monticello Airport, north of town, using money remaining from an emergency appropriation from the state Community Impact Board.
On March 11, the City Council accepted a hydrologist’s recommendation for the location of the new well.
In addition to the new wells, Monticello recently completed a project to put meters on the secondary water system.
The secondary water system was installed more than 25 years ago and has not been metered until now. City officials hope that metering the system will help identify and eliminate waste and encourage conservation.
Use of the new metering system will begin this spring when the secondary water system is recharged. The secondary system is traditionally charged near April 15 each year.
Before that happens, the City Council is set to consider the rates to be charged for use of secondary water. An April 8 public hearing will address the secondary water rates.
In 2013, the City of Monticello asked city residents to cut water use by 25 percent. With the help of significant conservation efforts, and an assist by a damp monsoon season, the city met the goal.
In addition, partially by eliminating watering on the driving range and rough, the Hideout Golf Club reduced its water usage by 30 percent in 2013.