Mayor Gary R. Gygi

August 1, 2014

I have been writing in the city’s newsletter for many months about our water systems. I am concerned that if we don’t reduce our consumption, we will be in trouble someday, when we have a drought or when one of our pumping stations goes down. I thought that I had been speaking clearly on this subject, but I am being told that I need to be bolder and clearer. So along those lines, I am going to be very clear about our water systems and what we can and what, I believe, we should do.

We have two wells in our city that provide our culinary water to drink, bathe, do laundry, etc.—the Cottonwood Well and the Harvey Well. Our secondary water, which is used to irrigate our lawns and gardens, comes from American Fork Canyon, Deer Creek Reservoir by way of the Central Utah Water Project (CUP), and a well on the golf course. The water from American Fork Canyon is shared with Highland, Lehi, Pleasant Grove, and American Fork. This water is usually severely reduced by midsummer, and we will not always be guaranteed to have it, because if we had a drought, then there would not be much water to share with the other cities. The city is contracted to receive a limited amount of water from CUP, but it is also the most expensive water in our supply portfolio. Once the city consumes its allotment of CUP water for the year, there is no guarantee we can receive more, even at a higher cost. The irrigation well on the golf course produces less water than our culinary wells and cannot supply the current demand on the irrigation system. Subsequently, during the peak summer months, due to such high water consumption city-wide, the city must rely on our culinary wells to provide outdoor irrigation water. 

It shouldn’t be a surprise that because we live in a desert, we need to plan ahead for the future, not just for today or next year. I am thinking about the city’s water systems for the next 40 years, and I am worried, if we don’t reduce our consumption. Former wise councils created a redundant system in our Cottonwood Well, and this helps. But when the Manila Water Company went out of business, Cedar Hills acquired many homes that also now use our water. This taxes our water capacity—not by supply—because right now we have enough supply, but our ability to pump it through our pipes is limited.

Some have suggested that the city just needs to buy more water shares. This will not help us. As mentioned, we are pumping as much water as our system allows during the hottest months of the summer, so if a pumping station went down during this time, we would all have brown lawns.

The most logical solution seems to be metering each property, and many cities are doing this. In fact, Spanish Fork has already done this, and their water consumption is approximately half of Cedar Hills’ per acre. I believe the State will eventually require all cities to meter their PI systems, so the water can be better tracked. I am told that if we would treat our water systems like other utilities, which are measured and billed by consumption, then we would watch what we use more carefully and reduce our consumption.

Metering our PI system is expensive, so we are looking at all options, including grants from Rocky Mountain Power and the reduced electricity costs of pumping less water. Someone suggested not do anything and wait until we have a breakdown in the system. I don’t believe that is a good strategy. If I wait until a pumping station goes down or the current drought gets worse, then it could be financially disastrous to the city, which is all of us.

We are talking with a very knowledgeable water engineering firm to analyze our capacity and advise us on our best alternatives. We will be having a town hall meeting on Thursday, August 14, to discuss our findings, so please plan to attend the meeting at 7:00 p.m. at the recreation center.

We have rationed water before and are asking you to water every third day this summer, but we are still using between two to three times the state’s recommendation. If we don’t reduce our consumption, then the cost to meter could be in excess of two million dollars. Please come to our town hall meeting or come see me any Thursday morning in my office.