Monticello hears report about water use, reserves
by Rhett Sifford
Monticello Public Works Director Nathan Langston’s water report was the subject of much interest for a packed house at the September 18 Monticello City Council meeting.
Langston may have dispelled some of the excitement when he stated that the city is better off than it could have been after a summer of extreme drought.
Langston said Loyds Lake contains 1,075 acre feet of water, which is 30 percent of its capacity. The large culinary pond is at 60 percent of capacity, and the small pond is at 20 percent. Langston said the city usually allows the culinary ponds to deplete this time of year. Then they are filled during the winter.
Langston said secondary water conservation efforts over the summer by Monticello residents and businesses produced very positive results. He said July usage was the lowest one-month total ever in Monticello. He reported the secondary pond is holding steady at more than 50 percent of capacity.
City water collection for the year is 66 percent of average. Combined culinary and secondary use from January through August is 75 percent of average. From May through August, secondary water use is 64 percent of average.
Langston reports that the Hideout Golf Course is already watering well below average, and a late-August irrigation pipe break further reduced that usage. He estimates that eight to ten million gallons of water was lost in the 30 minutes it took to stop the leak in the pipeline.
Since the pipe break, the golf course has been watered by the city culinary system. Through August, the course used 39.1 million gallons of water, which is 83 percent of the multi-year average and 68 percent of the recommended use for a course of that size.
Langston said the 24-inch pipe that burst is owned by San Juan Water Conservancy. It was installed in 1980 and has experienced several breaks in recent years. In the past, the Water Conservancy District elected to repair the line rather than replace it.
Langston said the city typically provides labor and the Water Conservancy District provides equipment for the repairs. But he explained that a permanent repair is needed or the problem will continue.
Following Langston’s report, members of the audience asked the council if the city has plans to increase water collection and storage capacity. Another concern is whether the city has looked at alternate collection sources.
Karla Eberling spoke about the personal pain and struggle of local ranchers and farmers in a drought year and asked if it is justifiable to continue watering the golf course at the current level.
Langston said that since he began working for the city, there have been constant efforts to secure more water. He detailed the renovated collection system, the failed wells, and other projects.
Langston explained that Loyds Lake has been full only twice in its 30-year history and that storage capacity isn’t necessarily the problem Monticello faces.
Mayor Tim Young said there is a current water study underway by the city engineering firm, Jones and DeMille. City Manager Doug Wright added that if Utah Governor Gary Herbert declares an emergency, the city would be eligible for a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to help with water projects.
Wright added that the city is looking at options such as repairing existing Monticello wells and obtaining water from the North and Spring creek drainages. He said the city is pushing for the Jones and DeMille study to be completed, so the city will be in position to take advantage of any option that becomes available.
Young said the city has spent several million dollars on water projects since he became mayor. He explained that even if the city purchases water rights, actual water is not guaranteed. He said the process is expensive, and the city’s main priority is to pursue projects that will provide actual water.
In a related item of business, the council scheduled the secondary water system shutoff for the first week of October, unless the pond runs dry first. The city will not supplement the pond for the remainder of the season.
In other business, the council approved a zone change for several properties east of Main Street and north of 100 North. The properties, originally zoned R-2 Residential, become A-1 Residential/Agricultural.
Monticello City Recorder Cindi Holyoak reports that several land owners in the vicinity of the rezoned properties were already using their land for agricultural purposes when it was discovered they were in an R-2 zone.
She said the Monticello Planning Commission conducted public hearings on the rezoning application for the properties and recommended that the city rezone the property. The owners of all the properties in question were present at the hearings and supported the commission recommendation.
Wright reports that the San Juan County Commission requested a representative of the city be appointed to serve on the Bears Ears Advisory Committee. He recommended the city nominate Councilmember Bayley Hedglin for the position, and the council agreed.
The council reappointed Troy Butler to the Airport Committee and Steve Young to the Victims of Mill Tailings Exposure Committee. They appointed Gordon Reeve to fill a vacant seat on the Planning Commission.
Several residents offered public comment that many areas around Monticello have been neglected this year. Some of the concerns included flourishing weeds, dying trees, and illegal trash dumping.
Wright explained that due to the drought, there were no weeds in the early part of the summer, but they sprang up when the rains arrived. He said crews that would usually handle these duties were employed for most of the summer assisting construction of the new bike trails at Loyds Lake and the mill site.
Wright said that some of the problem areas have been cleaned, but some still need work. He added that it’s an area the city will improve on going forward. Mayor Young encouraged every Monticello resident to do their part and work together to keep the city beautiful.