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Salt Lake County Council chair expects summer water rationing

“Bleak” snow year » Unless it gets wet quick, Jensen foresees restrictions by late August

First Published Jan 28 2014 06:59 pm • Last Updated Jan 28 2014 11:04 pm

Get ready for possible water rationing this summer.

Salt Lake County Council Chairman Michael Jensen warned his colleagues Tuesday that, unless the weather pattern turns decidedly wet over the next few months, water restrictions are likely later this summer.

At a glance

Air quality concerns

The Salt Lake County Council unanimously endorsed Councilman Arlyn Bradshaw’s effort to secure a seat on the Utah Board of Air Quality.

Because air quality is such a concern to residents of the state’s most populated county, Bradshaw said the county should have a voice on the state board responsible for pollution control.

He is seeking to fill an opening created when county government’s representative on the board, Cache County Councilman Craig Petersen, became mayor of Logan. Gov. Gary Herbert will appoint Petersen’s replacement.

“I represent a constituency that is very active on air-quality issues,” said Bradshaw, a Democrat from Salt Lake City, suggesting the state could be more flexible in allowing counties to deal with their own pollution problems.

“It’s important for somebody from Salt Lake County to be on the board,” he added, adding that the unanimous vote by the Republican-majority board “showed that they agree.”

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"The water supply outlook is bleak," said Jensen, who also is chairman of the board overseeing the completion of the multibillion-dollar Central Utah Project, whose main function is to move water from the Uinta Mountains to the Wasatch Front.

"I suggest you be on the ready," he added, "come late August or September."

Because of its storage capacity in Strawberry, Starvation and Jordanelle reservoirs, the Central Utah Project should be able to fulfill all of its contractual obligations to supply water to customers, Jensen said.

But the two biggest districts that supply water to Salt Lake Valley residents — the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District and the Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake City and Sandy — will face greater supply problems because more of their water comes from the mountain snowpack above Salt Lake.

"Unless we get some more moisture, you could see the possibility of rationing at some level," Jensen said.

As of Tuesday, the water content of the snowpack in the "Cottonwood Canyons Group" of measuring stations was 59 percent of normal, according to the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center.

About 9.2 inches of water is in that snowpack now; 15.5 inches is the median amount over the past 30 years, the Forecast Center’s website said.

Jensen, whose third public role is as chief of the Unified Fire Authority, then cited the drought’s impact on the threat of wildfires. Blazes already have begun in southern California, sweltering through one of its worst droughts in a century. Ski resorts around Lake Tahoe are desperate for snow.

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"The whole Sierra Basin is in a critically extreme position. It’s not good for the whole West," he said. "It’s a big issue if we don’t get some moisture."


Twitter: @sltribmikeg

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