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The fourth dry year in a row is taking its toll on the Provo River.

On Wednesday, Provo River Water Commissioner Stan Roberts Jr. notified water users with Class A rights - rights based on the river's natural flow - that their water shares are being reduced 50 percent beginning Friday."The flows are going downhill," Roberts said. "It is the fourth year we've had diminished flows (in the Provo River)."

Only irrigation water users are affected by the order. Storage rights in Deer Creek Reservoir and water rights based on natural flow of the Provo River are not related. Water users in Orem and Provo and members of eight canal companies are affected by the cutback. This is the second water reduction this year; on July 13, Roberts ordered a cutback in diversion of Provo River water to 75 percent of the river's flow.

"At 50 percent it really starts to hurt," said Merrill Bingham, Provo director of water resources and public works. "A lot of users on the system will see smaller streams in the ditches."

It will take all day Friday to adjust the flow to the appropriate levels, Roberts said.

Approximately 1,200 irrigation water users in Provo will be affected by the commissioner's order, Bingham said.

Two-thirds of those use the water for gardens and lawns. About one-third of the users are farmers with farms ranging from one or two acres to 50 acres.

Grain crops already have been harvested, Roberts said. Farmers are harvesting their second crop of hay, and subsequent plantings may suffer from the water shortage.

Fruit farmers will be most critically affected, although many fruit farmers lost their crops earlier this year to frost, Roberts said.

"It does require everyone to conserve water and get by with less," he said.

If the weather remains hot, further reductions in irrigation water may be ahead, Bingham said.

But unlike other Utah County cities, Provo's culinary water supply is "doing really well."

"We expect we'll see culinary water demand go up slightly as people make up on gardens and lawns what they can't get from irrigation," Bingham said.

Wells are full and the city has had no problem meeting a demand as high as 50 million gallons of water on peak days.


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Easing the shortage

Terry Herbert, Provo city irrigation and storm drain manager, says irrigation users can ease the pain of pinched flow from the Provo River. He offers the following advice:

- Take water turns when scheduled.

- Use water as efficiently as possible.

- Release water to the next user on time.