The springtime melt is manageable, reservoirs are flush, it's an ideal water world in the Wasatch Mountains.
"We've got tons and tons in storage in Deer Creek and Jordanelle," said David G. Ovard, manager of the Salt Lake Water Conservancy District, the biggest wholesaler in Utah and among the beneficiaries of a reservoir system that has never been so full.Two of the Central Utah Project's crown jewels this week reached record storage levels as heavy snowpack and a well-paced melt produced steady runoff from the High Uintas in the northeast sector of the state.
Its purpose thwarted by years of drought, the Strawberry Reservoir in far-eastern Wasatch County on Tuesday was almost five feet above its former record level, set in 1987. The man-made lake, which is the main conduit by which Uintah Basin water is collected and sent west to the Wasatch Front, has never approached its 1.1 million acre-foot capacity since going on line in the early 1980s. But this week it holds about 776,000 acre-feet and is rising swiftly, said Rich Tullis, operations manager for the CUP.
The CUP's latest addition, the Jordanelle Reservoir in northwestern Wasatch County, is also higher than ever and will be full sometime this calendar year, said Don Christiansen, general manager of the Central Utah Water Conservancy District, which administers the 11-county CUP.
The 4-year-old Jordanelle, like the Strawberry, stores water from sparsely populated high country and sends it to Utah's urban centers. This week it sits at 289,000 acre-feet, well on its way to its 314,000 acre-foot capacity.
"She's coming up really nice, you bet," said Christiansen.
Similarly, Little Dell Reservoir in Parleys Canyon is making a strong comeback after managers drained it in November to fix the inner workings of its brand-new dam. Little Dell this week contained 9,360 acre-feet, almost half its capacity.
The reservoir, a few miles east of Salt Lake City, points up another benefit of the area's mountain-reservoir system: Flood control.
"It takes the pressure off," said LeRoy W. Hooton Jr. director of the city's Public Utilities Department, noting Little Dell protects a flood plain that parallels 1300 South, a street inundated in the high-water years of 1952 and 1983.
Old stalwarts of the water-storage network are also doing their job. Deer Creek Reservoir, built on Depression-era federal government largesse, will easily reach capacity this year, according to a pronouncement on April 29 by the Provo River Water Users Association.
That body of water since before World War II has been the largest single provider to Wasatch Front retailers like the Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake City, which is entitled to more than a third of its volume, or about 61,700 acre-feet - enough to meet the annual needs of some 250,000 people.
But if managers seem happy about current water circumstances in northern Utah, they also offered words of warning at a Tuesday conference on the subject.
Hooton said critical watersheds in the half-dozen major canyons above Salt Lake City have become increasingly endangered as human use grows. He noted their importance by mentioning that Salt Lake City gets about 60 percent of its water from those sources.
And Ovard said the challenge that looms now is the future, when by the year 2035 Wasatch Front demand for supply and facilities will have doubled.
"All our groundwater is gone," said Ovard, and most local mountain sources are developed.
That leaves Salt Lake and Weber counties plotting strategy and already buying up land for a huge treatment facility that in 10 years or so will handle water from the relatively untapped Bear River watershed above Brigham City.