Crunch time: citizens asked to conserve water
July 11, 2007
Four scorching days in Oakley saw one weather station in a pasture register temperatures around 100 degrees last week.
"Weather is just part of life out here," explained Oakley resident Clifford Funk, who operates his digital weather station near Millrace Road. "But aren’t we used to 85 in the summer?"
The hottest day of the year was July 5 when the temperature in Oakley reached 103 degrees, Funk claimed.
On July 1, 4 and 7 his weather equipment recorded 100-degree temperatures, he said.
"The weather is hot," Funk said. "Maybe this global warming thing is in effect."
Dynamic weather conditions in eastern Summit County prompted Funk to spend less than $200 on eBay to purchase a weather station that is linked to his home computer and Web site, oakleyweather.com.
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"Every minute the current conditions are uploaded," Funk said. "Weather is such an important factor in our life in Oakley. One week it is below zero and the next week it’s temperate. It affects people and the farmers and the livestock."
But 100-degree heat on the East Side is rare, National Weather Service meteorologist Christine Smith said.
"It seems like [Funk’s weather station] reads a little warm," Smith said about the 100-degree measurements. "Salt Lake City itself has barely been that warm."
The highest temperature on record in Coalville was documented July 12, 2002, when mercury hit 102, Smith said, adding that the highest temperature on record in Park City is 99 degrees.
"Coalville had some upper 90s Thursday and Friday and Park City at the same time was in the upper 80s to low 90s last week," she said. "We were having almost record-breaking heat in the Salt Lake valley and you would see something comparable, but lower, in the Wasatch Back."
This time of year in Coalville temperatures normally reach the mid-80s, Smith said.
"We’ve had a ridge of high pressure over the Great Basin for pretty much the whole month of June," Smith said adding that the only rain recorded in Salt Lake during the "very, very dry month" was June 6 and 7.
The drought-like conditions mean land is dry and dusty but ranchers in Summit County haven’t run out of water, yet.
"I don’t see a problem yet, but there could be within the next two weeks if the weather keeps like it is," South Summit rancher Jim Soter said. "It’s kind of a guessing game all summer. I don’t think anyone here is hurting right now."
But stored water in irrigation ditches might soon run out leaving farmers desperate for rain for their crops.
"There is enough water for one more water turn here on the lower ditch in Marion," Soter explained. "Which probably will end the middle of July, and then we’ll be out until it rains."
With temperatures topping 90 degrees in Summit County the Marsac Building declared a drought. Water officials in the Snyderville Basin, however, claim that barring mercury hitting 100 their supply will last if everybody conserves.
"We ask that they only water in the evening hours from 7 p.m. to 10 a.m.," said Andy Armstrong, general manager of Mountain Regional Water Special Service District. "We don’t want them watering in the day."
With no cooling in sight, as high pressure lingers over Utah, water companies are trying to make sure consumption doesn’t outpace supply.
"Park City’s temperature should be in the high 70s, maybe low 80s," National Weather Service hydrologist Brian McInerney said. "We’re running at about nine degrees above normal."
That combined with relative humidity at a scant three percent have wildland firefighters on high alert, McInerney said.
"There has been no rain in sight, whatsoever," he said, adding that on Thursday a monsoonal flow could bring showers to the Beehive State.
But that rain, which is expected farther south, won’t likely dampen the Wasatch Range, Smith said.
Still, McInerney stopped short of blaming global warming for the heat wave.
"We’ve had years like this," McInerney said. "We’ve had periods of really warm temperatures in the absence of any rainfall."
Required to conserve
"By the time we start the 2008 water year, we’re going to be lower in stored water, in surface and groundwater, and soil moisture, unless we turn this pattern around significantly," McInerney lamented.
Mountain Regional Water Special Service District customers are using about 6.5 million of the 8 million gallons of water the company produces each day, Mountain Regional General Manager Andy Armstrong said.
Hotter temperatures demand more irrigation water, he said.
"It’s going to get worse before it gets better," Armstrong said. "It’s easy to not water if we just have a little sprinkling or a little douse of rain, but when we don’t have any rain for six weeks the way we keep things wet is with irrigation."
Still, the lack of rain is putting undo pressure on reservoirs in Summit County, McInerney warned.
"The guys who are using just stream flow for their farms, they are the guys that are having the worst time," McInerney said.