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City may have water to share

ROOSEVELT — In a time of drought and growth, this city has water enough — and wants to share.

By using the water rights the city owns, along with a secondary water system that is proposed to be built in four to five years, Roosevelt could supply culinary water to thousands of new water users.

"With a combination of the two, we could create a water situation to sustain all of Roosevelt City's needs present and future and go outside of the city limits to the tune of a total of 20,000 people," said Roosevelt City administrator Brad Hancock.

That could spell very good news for hundreds of Duchesne County families who are in desperate need of a culinary water system. Wells in the eastern portion of Duchesne County northwest of Roosevelt have dried up in many areas, or produce unpalatable water.

Roosevelt currently supplies nearly 10,000 people inside and outside the city limits with culinary water. A recent study determined it would be feasible to construct a secondary water system throughout Roosevelt with a water allocation that will be available through the enlargement of Sandwash Reservoir.

The success of the federal "203" water storage project at Sandwash near Upalco — now in its beginning stages — is dependant in large part to Roosevelt agreeing to purchase 2,000 acre-feet of municipal/industrial water.

The secondary water system wouldn't come cheap — it's estimated it will require a $4 million infrastructure, and the water is expected to be priced at about $132 per acre-foot a year — but when comparing costs of obtaining the same water in the future, Hancock said it's an opportunity the city can't afford to pass up.

"If the area expects growth and future vitality, the steps must be taken. From the outside it looks like it's going to be expensive, but when you consider the development costs 10 years down the road it's worth it."

The city is already in line for a possible $2 million federal grant and could approach the Central Utah Water Conservancy District for another $1 million. The Community Impact Board is also a possibility for a loan/grant mix, making the cost feasibility "very, very real," according to Hancock.

When secondary water is used for outdoor watering throughout the city, it will free up a large amount of culinary water — something the city could use. Even with the addition of a new culinary well last year, during peak summer demand time the city's wells are producing close to what water users are consuming.

Hancock said that doesn't mean the city's water supply is used up. In fact, it's just the opposite because Roosevelt City is using just one-third of its 11,334 acre-feet water rights. With increased demand for water and new water laws that herald a "use it or lose it" cry, the city feels pressure to begin exercising those rights.

"To accommodate new growth, we either use less water or increase our ability to produce more water by utilizing our rights, or a combination of those two," said Hancock. "It's in our best interest to demonstrate the need to use it. The prudent thing is to move forward with water development; it makes sense."

Despite entering the sixth year of drought, the city's underground water reserves are holding up well, showing "a rapid recovery" when pumped, Hancock noted.

"The lack or minimal influence that wells have on draw down on adjacent wells indicate to me there is a large quantity of water in that aquifer. Therefore, the construction of additional wells to accommodate the growing need for water for people here is a viable option," he said.