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Not a drop to drink: Water woes prompt Mendon building moratorium

October 17th, 2015 Posted in Opinion

By Jordan Floyd

MENDON — After approving eight new home construction permits — likely the last new construction in Mendon until the drought breaks — the Mendon City Council imposed a moratorium on all new construction last week over concerns that the city may run out of water.

Water-faucet-shutterstock-june-2011Mayor Ed Buist proposed the moratorium as a stipulation in a motion to approve the eight building permits, which had been on the city’s waiting list. The Council voted unanimously to approve both the eight permits and the motion to cease all future construction until the city’s water woes subside.

“All we can do is look at what we’ve got and be there for those who are hooked up and those who want to come in,” Buist said, referring to existing and new homes. “We went ahead with these eight permits, but we are on shutdown until we find more water or are in good years with precipitation.”

Prior to the building freeze vote, Council member Jon Hardmen and city engineer Eric Dursteler reported on their study of Mendon housing growth, dwindling water capacity and anticipated precipitation. The worst-case scenario, they told the City Council, indicated that at current growth rates, the city could be asked to supply water to 25 more homes than the existing water system could sustain.

Based on last year’s city water use and stocks, they said, the city would have water for no more than five to 10 more single-family home hook-ups. Forecasts are for another drier-than-average in Cache Valley, they said.

The city is in a water crisis as defined by the state of Utah, said Buist, who added that it would be irresponsible for the city not to act to protect current residents.

“I want to see Mendon grow,” he said, “but on the other hand, my stewardship is to those who are already hooked up, so that they can drink, flush, and do the things they need to do.”

Three of those seeking the building permits pleaded with the Council to approve their construction applications. “They’ve put in for permits and own property — they should be able to build,” said Julie Baker, speaking for her daughter and son-in-law.

Buist asked if those seeking building permits wanted to go ahead with construction even knowing the city is in a water crisis.

“We’re making a decision for these eight families that will possibly affect the whole city,” he said.

City council members and public works director Kirk Taylor said Mendon residents must be educated on water conservation practices, such as watering in the morning or evening, and repairing faulty pipes.

In addition to public education on water conservation, the city is looking for new water sources to suit the current residents better and increase the city’s capacity for growth.

Dursteler is leading a survey to attempt to find water to augment the city’s current stocks. The city is close to receiving a $40,000 grant to conduct this survey, which will examine areas south of Mendon, near Mountainside Elementary School, and east of the cemetery for new possible water sources.

Buist believes Mendon officials are doing what they can to suit the needs of current residents, while attempting to accommodate newcomers who want to build in the city.


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