PROVO -- Reports that the United States is seeing its hottest summer on record and local drought conditions are keeping people like Stan Roberts, Provo River Water commissioner, on alert.
Water in the lower Provo River has receded in the past three weeks as the area hits the middle of the critical water use time of summer, with people using the water for recreation and property owners using it for irrigation. But according to Roberts, while it looks low, so far so good. "We're trying to operate the river so we won't have a fish kill. There is not a concern right now and we feel we can maintain the water levels."
Roberts said because last year was such an abundant year for water and high-mountain snow pack, the Provo River is still doing OK. But water officials say the state needs good high-mountain snow packs and water this winter or next year may bring new issues to deal with.
Greg Beckstrom, Provo deputy public works director, said Provo city has limited influence on the river but is monitoring it.
"There are very few if any problems other than a couple of isolated areas of dead fish which also happens during high water years," he said.
While Provo public works is monitoring the river, it is typically more concerned about flood control. However, it also would be charged with cleaning up any dead fish.
"So far there has been enough water to keep the oxygen levels up for the fish," Roberts said. "July and August are the critical months. Come September we get a rain or two that usually makes a difference. Growing season is behind us then too. Only apples still need the water."
Central Utah Water Conservancy District, which manages dams and reservoirs on the Provo River, is trying to preserve reservoir levels and keep the river level up for the fish.
"We are doing our best to prevent any fish kill," Central Utah Water Conservancy District spokeswoman Chris Finlinson said. "We feel like we'll be OK this year. We are trying not to waste any water and preserve as much as we can in the reservoir. We should be all right for this year."
Finlinson added, "We watch every day to evaluate where we are. Every year is unique." She added they are concerned about fish kill, particularly the endangered June sucker. The June Sucker Recovery Program owns water shares in the river.
"We have been using June sucker water the last three weeks and it has all been used. We are sweeping the corners now so to speak. We are making sure all fish in the Provo River have what they need," Finlinson said. "A few years ago we had low water and had a fish kill. We are trying real hard not to have that again."