East Canyon Running Dry

East Canyon Running Dry

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John Daley ReportingCompeting claims on water are creating a potential disaster for one beautiful and historic Utah canyon.

In Salt Lake County new growth is continuing at an explosive rate. But just down the road from brand new homes and golf courses an important water resource is coming perilously close to running dry.

Just a few miles down a dirt road from Jeremy Ranch is a charming spot rich in history. The Mormon Pioneers, the Donner party, and the Pony Express all came through East Canyon on their way to the Salt Lake Valley.

But the life source of this canyon is in deep trouble. The creek that runs through there has been dramatically diminished thanks to the drought. Pollutants upstream are damaging its once pristine waters and now it's in danger of running dry.

Kerm Hamilton, East Canyon Property Owner: "The big problem is the water in the creek. In the 26 years we've owned property here we've never seen it this low."

The big problem: explosive growth, new people moving in, new homes being built, new golf courses. Everyone is competing for the same water.

But nearby property owners say they've never seen the creek running this low and wonder if the once-thriving fish will survive.

Bill James, Dept. of Wildlife Resources: "This is essentially the Wasatch Front. We're just on the back side of the crest. So it amounts to the place where we get to decide whether we're going to retain healthy functioning streams in our highly populated area."

The Macfarlane family has owned land along the creek for nearly 100 years and runs a cattle and hunting operation there. But the family worries that unless the water is kept at a decent level, their livelihood is in jeopardy.

Scott Macfarlane, East Canyon Property Owner: "Yeah it's really depressing. We wonder where it will all end. Maybe next year we won't have any water by this time of the year."

Property owners say drought, plus development, minus planning may equal disaster.

It's unclear which of the upstream water users are helping to draw down the stream. But one of the property owners in East Canyon called a few of the golf courses yesterday, and today the stream flow was slightly higher.

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