Discussion:   Talk about this article...

June 2016 Roundtable Recap

June 23, 2016
by Heila Ershadi

Canyonlands Watershed Council (CWC) hosted our third Roundtable Discussion at the Grand County Library on Monday, June 20.

The featured speaker this month was Arne Hultquist, the Watershed Coordinator for Grand and San Juan Counties.  This position is funded through the Utah Department of Water Quality.  Arne is also the leader of the Moab Area Watershed Partnership (MAWP), a collaboration of diverse stakeholders who work to improve and maintain water quality in our area.  This is largely accomplished through the funding of specific projects aimed at addressing non-point source water quality issues.  Non-point source pollution is diffuse, not from a single source such as an industrial or sewage treatment plant.  Some of the projects that the MAWP has assisted in funding include floodplain restoration in Pack Creek, invasive species removal done by both the non-profit organization Rim to Rim Restoration and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and a seeding project on Placer Creek in Castle Valley after a fire.  The MAWP has helped fund over $200,000 in projects.

Arne also spends a lot of his time out in the field, monitoring local water quality.  Right now, he is working to pinpoint the source or sources of some e coli pollution in the creeks.  He is also working with the Department of Water Rights to address potential water quality risks posed by private wells, which may no longer be in use yet not properly decommissioned.  In addition, he is closely following the ongoing groundwater study being conducted in our area by the United States Geologic Survey (USGS), which is geared toward providing information that will be highly useful for watershed planning and ensuring that development does not overdraft the water supply nor negatively impact groundwater supply in another part of the valley.

Arne is also working on gathering data that could inform further study of Mill Creek’s temperature and flow.  This study could inform management of the creek so as to preserve ecosystem functions such as resistance to flood and fire.  He anticipates that the data he is gathering would bring the cost of such a study down to a level that the State of Utah could provide the remaining funding. 

There was also an interesting discussion about in-stream flow.  Current Utah water law dictates that water right’s holders must use their water for “beneficial use”.  The definition of “beneficial use” is fairly narrow, and in Utah does not include things like wildlife habitat or hazard mitigation of flood and fire in riparian areas.  The Roundtable attendees discussed the long road to changing beneficial use, as well as what could be done to achieve those goals but within the bounds of the current system. 

CWC members also gave updates on projects they are doing, some of which have taken shape due to the Roundtables.  Jeff Adams, CWC’s Program Director, informed the group that the local health department has the green light to do two gray water pilot projects.  Jeff also told the group about his presentation to the Consortium of On-sight Wastewater Professionals (COWP) about graywater.  The COWP is currently re-writing their code to be more flexible with graywater usage.  Also, Jeff presented recently to the Development Review Team—a group comprised of Grand County and Moab City staff who are professionally involved with planning and development—on the topic of Green Infrastructure.  Green Infrastructure is a form of stormwater management that focuses on making stormwater useful, and can work in tandem with conventional infrastructure.  The presentation was well received, and Jeff will review existing codes and make recommendations for where GI can fit into existing code and where new code may be warranted. 

Sara Melnicoff gave an update on the pilot project she is exploring with the City of Moab and Mike Johnson of the University of Utah Extension.  Right now, nothing much is growing, so they are just looking at options. 

We also got an update from Jeff and Claire Core about the new CommuniTea Garden on 100 West and Williams Way.  They are planting fruit trees and pollinator plants, and the property owner also has an irrigation share that is being used for the garden.  There was an article on What a great addition to Moab!

Thanks to everyone who turns out for the Roundtables, and puts our discussions into action!  You all are amazing!

Discussion:   Talk about this article...