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SLC mayor urges wise water use, warns of city shortage

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SALT LAKE CITY — In the face of low snow and spring runoff levels, Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker is calling on city residents to be extra cautious in their use of water.

Becker issued an advisory Monday in accordance with the city’s Water Shortage Contingency Plan, asking residents to avoid overwatering or wasting water in order to protect the city's water supply.

The city’s current water supply sits about 90 percent of normal levels, but “stream flows are very low,” according to a statement from Becker’s office.

“Unfortunately, Salt Lake City is not immune to the realities of the climate change crisis, and our recent below-average snowfall is a clear sign of that,” Becker said. “We are doing everything we can to address this problem for the short and long term.”

The city’s Water Shortage Contingency Plan outlines five water shortage stages triggered by water supply levels, stream flows and water demand, as well as recommendations for stage-specific actions to reduce water demand to levels that match current supply and future water needs.

Laura Briefer, the city's water resources manager, said the first stage of the plan requires officials to inform the public as soon as data shows the possibility of a water shortage.

Water conservation recommendations
  • Adjust sprinkler controllers to reflect the season and weather.
  • Check sprinkler systems for broken or misaligned spray heads.
  • Check indoor faucets and fixtures for leaks and repair promptly.
  • Sign up for a free sprinkler check by calling 877-728-3420.
Source: Salt Lake City Corp.

While the city is not currently anticipating a progression to the second stage due to ample reservoir storage, if demand levels rise higher than what the city expects or if water supplies drop another 10 percent, then city leaders would implement further action, Briefer said.

Salt Lake City residents have decreased their use of water by 20 percent since 2000, she said, but if they don’t uphold that habit, the city’s water concerns could worsen.

“We’ll continue to monitor the conditions and let the public know how we’re doing,” Briefer said. “We recommend and would be very happy if each person could make sure that they’re using water wisely. There’s not a need to water lawns at this time of the season.”

If supply conditions worsen, the city could progress into mild, moderate, severe or critical stages of water shortage, which would mean mandatory actions or stringent prohibitions, Briefer said.

“This careful water management approach is part of our overall efforts to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change that are already upon us,” Becker said. “Conservation, efficiency and sustainability guide how we approach all our goals for the city, and I hope residents will join us in this effort.”

Last year, a portion of the city’s water allocation was carried over and saved in reservoirs in case of another dry year, said Jeff Niermeyer, Salt Lake City public utilities director.

“This year’s snow levels mean that it is important to maintain that goal of reserving water for future need, should this pattern of low snowfall and runoff continue into next year,” Niermeyer said.

American Fork and Payson have already restricted water use to every other day, and Payson will consider broader restrictions later this week.

Contributing: Jed Boal

Katie McKellar is a Dixie State University graduate with a bachelor of science in mass communication. Before interning at Deseret News, she reported and edited news content for Dixie Sun News, first as Photo Editor, then as Features Editor. Email:

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