There is a noticeable difference in cities that have enough culinary and secondary water and those that haven’t in north Utah County.
Older, established cities built against the Wasatch mountains appear to be prepared with sufficient and plentiful water supplies.
Above Battle Creek Canyon and its many waterfalls, springs percolate from the mountains, and the city of Pleasant Grove has created a system to capture the clean spring water for municipal use.
“We try to collect it before it ever gets to the air so we don’t have contamination go into those,” Public Works Director Marty Beaumont said.
Pleasant Grove, founded in 1855, has issues with water, but not the kind of issues the cities to the west have, due in part to their rapid growth.
The municipality has 10 culinary water wells and five different water sources it uses, but its challenge is keeping the older systems maintained.
“I think that it’s from over time, the cities that are close to the mountains, they’ve got water rights that help with the needs they are going have,” Beaumont said. “Some of the cities that are farther away obviously wouldn’t have access to some of the water sources we’ve had for years and years.”
Instead, fast-growth cities are creating larger reservoirs and finding other sources, changing traditional development to stay ahead of the economic impact on water supply.
In spite of careful planning, sometimes there are shortages, such as Lehi's culinary water shortage in 2013.
An older city that is growing at least 3 percent annually, Lehi’s newer residents were using culinary water to nourish their lawns. With the ongoing drought, the practice brought well water levels to an all-time low.
The city launched a re-education program to let homeowners know the difference between outside water use and indoor water use, and the well water returned to near normal levels.
“We are working on adding new sources to the water,” said Dave Norman, Lehi’s new water systems director. “The engineering department has recently been working on two new waters wells, and we plan on bringing those online by the summer.”
In addition to well water, Norman said the city is looking for newer and more reliable sources for municipal water systems.
“We are working with Central Utah Water Conservancy District for both culinary and secondary water,” Norman said.
CUWCD, which is more expensive than other water sources, also supplies water to Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain.
Cities are adapting and introducing secondary water systems if they can to separate out drinking water and landscaping water. With growth and drought conditions, city leaders have discovered a secondary water irrigation system alleviates some of the demand on the culinary water supply.
The cities of American Fork and Pleasant Grove added a secondary water system within the past decade.
“Before we had that system and were able to use water coming out of the canyon for watering lawns, that is where we had a lot of water problems,” Beaumont said. “We were putting such a demand on our culinary water, and now we’ve been able to reduce the amount we use for culinary, because we use the water coming out of the canyon or from the Provo River [instead].”
According to Saratoga Springs Spokesman Owen Jackson, the city has taken its secondary water system one step further than most and added meters to measure outdoor water use.
Adopting a rate scale for secondary water use with the meters has helped residents be more aware and be more conservative in watering their yards.
The measure was implemented through the municipality’s Groundwater Monitoring and Water Development Plan from 2005.
“The city is currently working with Hansen, Allen & Luce on an update to the plan," Jackson said. "We also just recently updated our water conservation plan, which was part of the city’s overall goal of a 25 percent reduction in irrigation water use through the use of irrigation meters."
Saratoga Springs’ culinary water system is served by five underground wells. The municipality also has two wells that have been drilled but still must be equipped.
Its secondary water system is served as well by five other underground wells and a turnout from the Utah Lake Distributing Canal (ULDC).
The newer, fast-growth cities may envy Alpine, American Fork and Pleasant Grove, municipalities that have long-established, reliable sources for water. But city leaders haven’t stayed green with envy too long.
Eagle Mountain leaders have begun a new water study project to capture storm water as a water source, have changed landscaping to curve into itself instead of outward and down a storm drain, have introduced water-creating foliage, and have added other creative innovations.
Eagle Mountain is not the first city to rethink tradition in Utah County, however. To the south, Spanish Fork has a system to capture storm water before it leaves the area, through a drainage system.
“They are ahead of the curve on some of their storm water systems,” Norman said.
Ongoing progressive planning and funding water projects is helping cities stay ahead of the population boom, and an end to the drought would only improve the available resources.
According to the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center, meteorologists are predicting an improvement, however slight, in 2016 moisture.
Based on a rating system of D0 to D4, where D0 is no drought at all, meteorologist Anthony Artusa predicts while most of northern Utah will remain in drought, it will lessen one or more categories, and parts of central Utah may see the drought lifted entirely by the end of 2016.