As water is turned on, Centerfield residents asked to be ‘mindful’ of drought

CENTERFIELD—As Centerfield turns on irrigation water for residents’ use tomorrow, city officials are asking residents to be mindful of precarious drought conditions.

The city council agreed at its meeting last week that the biggest threat to the city running out of irrigation water is people who use more water than they are entitled. For at least the beginning of this year, avoiding that problem will require everyone to use even less water than last year or in 2018, councilmembers said.

“It’s going be slim to none for the start,” Councilman Jaden Sorenson. The council stressed that water usage relates strictly to how much water they have paid for and does not concern whether they are farmers or light users.

Based on the water that is currently available, users are entitled to 3,258 gallons of irrigation water per share owned in the first five days of use, Sorenson said. After Tuesday, officials will meet again to re-evaluate how much water should be allotted for each share based on how much water is available.

This is enough water to cover half of an acre of lawn with 1/4 of an inch of water over the course of the first five days, according to Councilman David Beck.

Most homes in Centerfield do not have meters to track use of secondary water automatically. Beck and Sorenson said residents can still calculate how much water they use to stay within their share amounts, but it depends on the type of sprinkler system being used. 

A standard sprinkler nozzle, which Beck described as being about 1/4 of an inch, will put out roughly 3,258 gallons over 815 minutes of continuous use.

So, to calculate how long it is permissible to run water through a system with these standard-sized nozzles, divide 815 by the number of sprinkler heads.

For example, if someone has one share of secondary water to use and 10 sprinkler heads, they could divide 815 minutes per head by 10 heads to know they should limit their use to about 81 minutes over the initial five-day period.

On perhaps a larger lot, someone who uses standard-nozzle sprinklers may have four shares of water and 20 sprinkler heads. 

Since this user has four times the right of one share, they can multiply 815 minutes by four before dividing by the amount of sprinkler heads they use; 3,260 total minutes of continuous use divided by 20 sprinklers comes out to 163 minutes of watering from tomorrow until Tuesday.

“[This formula] only work for the people with automatic sprinkler systems. Everybody else has got to figure out how” to put out their share amount, Beck said.

People who cannot rely on this formula because they use hoses or other types of sprinklers can still measure their output manually. Beck recommended turning the water on and placing a container, such as a tuna can, somewhere on the lawn to measure the amount of water it collects over a period of time.

By measuring the amount of water accumulated, users can more accurately estimate how long their system takes to put 1/4 of an inch of water over half an acre or their lot’s equivalent.

Beck and Sorenson acknowledged that the amount of water per share is far lower than usual and likely not as much as most residents need to keep lawns and gardens fully watered.

“If [residents] think they had it bad last year, they better pray” this year, Beck said.

The smaller amount of water residents are meant to use per share is strictly due to a shortage of it.

For context, Beck said in a normal year, the main reservoir the city uses would be full or near full, with 10,000-20,000 acre-feet of irrigation water. Last April, the reservoir held 7,000 acre-feet, and this year there are only 1,000. One acre-foot equates to the amount of water it takes to cover an acre with one foot of water or 44,000 square feet of it.

It is so low this year that the city will not use water from the reservoir in April.

“Right now, we’re strictly on the live-stream flow, what’s coming down from 12-Mile Canyon,” Beck said, also referring to runoff water from rivers in Ephraim, Manti, Sterling and water that comes through the Sanpitch River. Those sources are providing about 25 percent of normal flow right now compared to during a typical April, he added.

A culprit for the low water availability is about 24 percent less moisture accumulation on the mountain that produces most of the runoff Centerfield uses, Beck said. Heat and wind have impacted and will continue to impact water availability this year, he added.