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Taylorsville Journal

Local water experts say, despite two consecutive wet Utah winters, this is no time to stop conserving

May 06, 2024 03:00PM ● By Carl Fauver

This cavernous, underground space in Taylorsville – and several more like it nearby – store a combined 100 million gallons of culinary water. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

Everywhere we turn, it’s a natural tendency, isn’t it? If our favorite team is up by five touchdowns or a dozen 3-point baskets, don’t they nearly always “let up?” Next thing you know, we’re gnawing down our fingernails, wondering where that 30-point lead went.

Or, how about closer to home: have you ever worked hard dieting to drop seven pounds – then thought, the best way to celebrate this accomplishment is with a huge slice of cake and way-too-much ice cream?

One more: have you ever left Wendover with ALL your winnings? Of course not: we win… we get ahead… our bets grow… we plunk more into the (are they called “slot machines” anymore?) and we drive home wondering, ‘Why didn’t I quit earlier?’

We have a fun term for these predictable habits: human nature. And a pair of water professionals here in our end of the Salt Lake Valley worry that same predictable response may be coming in the world of water conservation.

“These past two wet winters have had a very positive impact on our water situation,” Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District General Manager Alan Packard said. “Our surface water reservoirs, like Jordanelle and Deer Creek, are in much better shape. They will both get very near 100% capacity. But we are always careful to remind the public, we still need to conserve as much as possible.”

Can you say, “wet blanket?” Does Packard celebrate diet successes with a heaping bowl of Brussels sprouts? 

Taylorsville-Bennion Improvement District General Manager Mark Chalk is just as bad.

“We still want to push conservation because our reservoirs can only hold so much water,” Chalk said. “Since last year’s (record setting wet) winter essentially filled all of our northern Utah reservoirs, the biggest winner from this past winter has been The Great Salt Lake. It’s come up significantly (from its dangerously low level of just a couple of years ago).” 

Packard and Chalk are both quick to direct us to Developed in 2017 by JVWCD, the website offers information on how homeowners can receive financial rebates and incentives by making eligible landscaping changes. They are also both quick to remind us, Utah is the second-driest state in the country; a couple of unusually wet winters won’t resolve our challenges forever.

Chalk and Packard know of what they speak, with more than a half-century of water expertise between them. Packard has been with JVWCD more than 34 years, and its GM since January 2023. Chalk hits 20 years with TBID this month. He’s been GM there since June 2019.

TBID employs 35 people and provides culinary water to more than 90% of all Taylorsville homes and businesses. It also has a few customers in neighboring cities. Thirty to 40% of that water is purchased from JVWCD. The majority of water Taylorsville residents consume comes from the city’s reliable and productive wells.

The much larger JVWCD has 160 employees. Three of the district’s customers purchase much more water than Taylorsville-Bennion. They supply some 20,000 acre feet of water to West Valley City residents and about the same to people in West Jordan. The district’s third largest customer is South Jordan, at 16,500 acre feet per year.

Because Taylorsville-Bennion wells are so dependable, TBID purchases “only” 4,700 acre feet of water from JVWCD annually.

Yes, yes – before you ask – an acre foot of water is 325,851 gallons. So, the 4,700 acre feet TBID purchases each year is a little more than 1.5-billion gallons.

Taylorsville is also home to the largest underground water storage tank Jordan Valley operates. Buried under a vacant, 35-acre plot of land – just west of Bangerter Highway at 5900 South – is the district’s 100-million-gallon Jordan Valley Water Terminal Reservoir. 

For those of us who fish and waterski at “reservoirs,” that name is a bit misleading. The JVWCD “reservoir” is actually a huge storage tank, buried out of sight.

“Jordan Valley Water owns and operates 27 reservoirs (underground and above ground tanks) throughout the Salt Lake Valley,” Packard said. “The 100-million-gallon Taylorsville reservoir is, by far, the largest. The next largest, in fact, is 8-million-gallons.”

The original Taylorsville reservoir was constructed in 1985 with a total capacity of 34-million-gallons. A dozen years later it was tripled in size, when two additional 33-million-gallon “cells” were added to the existing site.

Last month, Packard and Chalk led several elected officials, business leaders and media members on a tour of the massive underground reservoir.

“Each year, we completely drain one of the reservoir cells to allow maintenance crews to inspect and repair it,” Packard said. “The annual maintenance cost is about $150,000. If we find unexpected issues, the cost goes up.”

Packard also explained, his district does not actually own all of the 100-million-gallon terminal reservoir in Taylorsville. JVWCD owns 5/7 of it, while the Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake and Sandy owns the remaining 2/7.

Officials say the reservoirs primarily exist because water demands are inconsistent throughout a 24-hour day. The massive containers drain down when demand is high then refill when demand drops. One of the reservoir tour leaders – JVWCD Facilities & Grounds Maintenance Supervisor Brad Boren – says you might be surprised what time water demand is highest during the summer.

“Our water demand begins to spike about 11 o’clock at night, and remains higher through the night,” Boren explained. “This is because about 70% of our water is used for landscaping. That percentage has actually dropped over the past few years. But it remains quite high. That’s why we constantly encourage people to conserve. We provide plenty of water to serve more (Salt Lake Valley) residents, IF people continue to slow down how much they use outside.”

Taylorsville Mayor Kristie Overson was impressed by what she saw on the tour.

“It was just incredible to walk down into that massive cavern – and to understand, what we were seeing was just a portion of all the water storage area they have,” Overson said. “Our residents can be confident their water is safe. I was impressed to hear about all the safety measures (JVWCD) takes to protect our water supply.”

“I am so pleased our forefathers planned ahead, decades ago, to construct these water storage reservoirs,” added City Councilman Ernest Burgess. “They anticipated the continued (population) growth we would see, and we are all benefiting now from that forethought.”

One final note: this year marks the 50th anniversary of a key piece of federal legislation that has made it safer for all of us to trust the water coming out of our tap. The Safe Drinking Water Act was passed by Congress in 1974. Under the new rule, the Environmental Protection Agency was tasked with setting drinking water quality standards. The EPA continues monitoring states, local authorities and water suppliers that enforce those standards.

To mark this half-century milestone – and to kick off the annual National Drinking Water Week (May 5-11) – Taylorsville-Bennion Improvement District will host an open house at its headquarters (1800 W. 4700 South) on Monday, May 6, from 4 to 7 p.m. Learn more about the celebration, and what else the district is up to, at λ

For more on Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District, visit Click PROGRAMS on their front page to get to the Utah Water Savers website, mentioned above. λ

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