By Jacob Moon
WELLSVILLE -- The City Council wants to start using its own water, but can't until some confusing issues are cleared up.
The problem is deciding what to do with 1,118 acre-feet of water the city has rights to but isn't using.
Wellsville City Manager Don Hartle arranged to have Warren Petersen, an attorney who specializes in water rights, give a presentation to the city council during a public hearing Wednesday evening.
"We have all of this extra water and we want to know what we can do with it," Hartle said.
Amidst laments from more than 25 residents who attended the meeting, Petersen explained to the council what could be done to gain control of the water they are not using. Members of the council indicated the city is paying $13,000 in assessments on its portion of the water behind Hyrum Dam each year, but they have never used any of it.
"The only thing I can recommend for that is to find out who is using the water and send them a bill," Petersen said.
Hartle said the city would like to use the water as culinary water instead of irrigation water because it has a greater need for water in resident's homes. But the approval for such a change would have to come from five separate entities, including the state of Utah, the Bureau of Reclamation, the South Cache Water Users Association, the Wellsville City Irrigation Company and Wellsville City.
He said that approval would be hard to get.
Another option would make an approval easier to acquire, but would require a much more complex logistical process, Hartle said. He proposes that the city should exchange the water in the Hyrum Reservoir for well rights. That way, the people who are using well water, which is usually better as culinary water, for irrigation could use the 1,118 acre-feet of water in question, and Wellsville City could use the well water to provide water to new homes.
The council thanked Petersen for the explanation and will be discussing the issue further in an upcoming meeting. Hartle said the city currently gets its culinary water from the Wellsville Springs and two wells in the area, while the irrigation water comes from the Wellsville and Hyrum Dams and the Murray Spring.
The 1,118 acre-feet of water would be a great help to the city, especially with all the new subdivisions that are cropping up in the city, he said. One acre-foot of water equals about 326,000 gallons, which means the city could steadily pump 693 gallons of water per minute for a full year.
Hartle said water has always been a big issue in the valley because it is what gives the city life.
"People ask how we can let more people continue to move in," he said. "But we think everyone has the right to have a place to live.
"I have a job no one envies. It is my job to consider the generations of people who will be living in Wellsville 20, 30 or 50 years down the road and make sure they have enough water to survive."