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Irrigators Face Water Shortages

Bill McClure
Editor
The Richfield Reaper
Wednesday, May 10, 2000

The rebuilding of the Otter Creek Reservoir last fall and less than normal precipitation are combining to make for a bad year for area irrigators. Although the Otter Creek Reservoir is filling faster than expected, it stands at 58 percent of capacity or about 21,000 acre feet short of being full. And, since the beginning of the new water year last Oct. 1, precipitation in Richfield is a meager 3.34 inches compared with 5.53 inches a year ago at this time. To make matters worse, precipitation in the mountains which feeds the Sevier River system is 74 percent of average.

"It's probably going to be a tight year," said Sevier River water master Ray Owens. "But we've survived worse."

"It's always a guessing game, but we're going to have a less than average supply of water," he said.

"We're starting to get some runoff and that's going to help," Owens said.

Brent Crowley, who represents the Richfield Canal, echoed Owens' comments. "The Otter Creek situation is pretty tough," he said.

"Our irrigators will get roughly half of the water they normally get," Cowley said. Irrigators usually receive three acre feet of water each year but this year that is expected to drop to about 1.5 acre feet, he said. A good monsoon season, which usually begins about July 1, would ease the situation, Cowley said.

Ivan Cowley, president of the Otter Creek Reservoir Board, said 10 canal companies will be affected. They are South Bend, Monroe, Joseph, Elsinore, Richfield, Brooklyn, Annabella, Vermillion, Sevier Valley and Wells. "It's going to be a tough summer," Cowley said. "We're operating with half of a reservoir."

Water allocations will start out at about 50 percent of normal but Cowley hopes we'll get enough rain this summer to up that figure to two-thirds. And technology will help minimize the water shortage. "Now that we can control the flow of water with computers and telecommunications systems, we us less water and we use more efficiently," he said.


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