The Kane County Water Conservancy District (KCWCD) celebrated its 25th year with a September 14 open house at its new residence at 725 E. Kaneplex Drive in Kanab. One significant feature of the new building is a large conference room with floor to ceiling windows that yield a panoramic view of the KCWCD’s signature project – the Jackson Flat Reservoir.

“It’s smart in the second driest state in the nation to pay attention to water development, conservation and improvements,’” explained KCWCD Director Mike Noel. “A community in Utah without good water sources cannot exist and grow.”

KCWCD history

The KCWCD was organized in 1992 as a political subdivision of the State of Utah under the Water Conservancy Act. The Kane County Commission, under the direction of Kane County Attorney Todd McFarlane, sought the district for the county and water users to come together to tax for the benefit of water development. The District was formed after an overwhelming vote of the citizens to not only establish the district but to agree to a property tax to support the new district.

KCWCD Executive Director Mike Noel, who was employed by the Bureau of Land Management at the time and with permission of his employer, accepted an appointment to the board by the Commission.

The seven board members were selected as representative of different water drainages in the county (Sevier River, Virgin River, Johnson Wash, two for Kanab Creek; north and south-east and west; Paria River, and Cedar Mountain, which is Sevier and Virgin River).

The District was organized for conserving and developing water for multiple uses including: domestic, municipal, agricultural, commercial, industrial, wildlife and stock watering.

The District’s 2012 handbook stated its objective was to plan for, finance, design and construct water distribution systems, including pipelines, wells, reservoirs and other improvements as necessary to utilize and conserve water resources within Kane County for the benefit of its citizens.

Noel was named Executive Director in 1996, and has held the position ever since.

Water-worthy projects

Cedar Mountain

Of the multitude of projects the KCWCD has accomplished in its 25 years of existence, perhaps no one geographic area of the county has benefited more than Cedar Mountain! Prior to 2000, there were 17 different water companies on the mountain that either hauled water or accessed unreliable wells and local springs, which would often times dry up in the summer or freeze in the winter.

“There were so many concerns about source, storage and quality, on the mountain,” recalled Noel. “It required 90 percent of the tanks and water lines being rebuilt with cement protection. All wells had source protection issues.”

But the work and financial investment paid off – Cedar Mountain is a real KCWCD success story! The District teamed up with the Division of Drinking Water, and began working with the local Duck Creek water boards and membership to bring clean, reliable, year-round culinary water to the area.

“There are over 3000 water connections on the mountain now,” said Noel with pride. The total water system build-out on Cedar Mountain has added three million gallons of water storage and one half million feet of pipe.

Johnson Canyon

The Johnson Canyon area has also been greatly benefited by the KCWCD. That area has experienced heavy growth in the past 20 years, seriously challenging the many private wells. Poor quality, limited storage capacity and fire flow capacity were pressing issues!

The DDW and KCWCD teamed up once again to drill a well and construct a new water distribution system to serve residents of Canyon Country and Johnson Canyon, and meet Stampin’ Up! Manufacturing facility needs for a pressurized overhead water system to make sure the company could keep their business interruption insurance.

In addition, the Johnson Canyon pipeline along Highway 89 was extended to the Vermilion Cliffs subdivision. The JC pipeline was extended west to serve the Lost Springs subdivision and an additional two miles along Highway 89 connecting to Kanab City’s main water line. That provided both KCWCD and Kanab City with a backup water supply. A new well was drilled on the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in 2012. The 600-foot deep well pulls pure water from the Navajo Aquifer with an initial test pump of 980 gallons per minute, (GPM).

Kanab City and Kanab Irrigation Company

The KCWCD has connected a lot of lines, drilled numerous wells and built storage facilities to improve irrigation capacity within Kane County.

“As a wholesale operation, the district provides support for the towns in the county,” said Noel. “We built the line from Johnson Canyon to connect to the city to provide a backup supply for the city just in case the wells and the delivery lines from the north that feed the city system are compromised by an earthquake or even a hazardous waste spill. It also will provide an emergency supply to our 350 customers east of Kanab and in the Johnson Canyon area.”

In 2011, the District replaced eight miles of 50-year old cast iron pipe with a 24-inch PVC pipeline to supply Kanab City. The project also included a line extension to the Ranchos subdivision to increase flow and capacity in that area. The grants and loans the KCWCD received to build the project were critical to getting the pipeline built.

“The Jackson Reservoir is a great source of water, not only to the farmers in the area, but also to many of the lawns and gardens and even the high school athletic fields,” said Noel. He added that the Kane County Water Conservancy District is in fact, a 10 percent owner in the Kanab Irrigation Company. It is fitting that the Kanab Irrigation Company deeded the first culinary water rights to Kanab City to allow for the establishment of a Kanab City Municipal Water Company. The cooperation with the state and the city to build the Jackson Flat Reservoir brings that early association full circle to help the farmers and to continue to provide secondary water and recreational opportunities to all of the citizens of Kane County.

“We want to always work with the city and our relationship has always been good,” said Noel. “We have the ability to deliver. We can get supply up to 2000 gallons of water a minute to the city if its system went down for some reason. We have a similar agreement with the Town of Alton. The KCWCD is here to meet the needs of our 3500 customers and to support all of the towns and the city of Kanab in Kane County.”

Keeping track

Monitoring and operations of so many water projects spread over the enormous land mass that is Kane County may seem daunting, but the KCWCD is ‘well’ prepared!

The pumps, wells and tank level sensors in the Duck Creek, Johnson Canyon and Jackson Flat systems are run off a supervisory control and data acquisitions (SCADA) system. SCADA is connected through fiber optic lines and wireless repeaters. The computer system uses real time data to measure tank levels which trigger wells and pumps to turn on at low levels and off at high levels.

Alarms are triggered if any unusual activity, warnings or critical information occur in the system. Each connection to the culinary water system is metered monthly using an automatic meter reading system. Each source is metered and recorded so that KCWCD can equate and minimize water loss and provide accurate accounting of water usage to the state.

Jackson Flat Reservoir

After years of planning and 19 months of construction, head gates to fill the Jackson Flat Reservoir were opened in fall 2012. The dam structure is composed of 800,000 yards of carefully sampled clay, dirt and rock. The project was supervised by four engineering firms, the Utah State Engineer of Dam Safety and the Army Corps of Engineers.

“The main reason we built it was to stabilize irrigation water, which includes public secondary watering,” said Noel. He noted that water is used for watering school lawns and ball fields, etc.

During the environmental studies prior to construction, archeologists discovered over 30 pit homes and artifacts in the area ranging from 300 to 5000 years old. The KCWCD worked with a number of Indian tribes that wanted them to be reburied quickly. Kanab City’s recreation plan for Jackson Flat proposes an on-site museum to house these artifacts and history of Kanab’s heritage.

The 4,228 acre feet reservoir is an off stream site fed by a 24 inch pipe capable of flowing nearly 24 acre feet per day. The average depth of the reservoir is 28 feet, with a conservation pool that will sustain 400 acre feet of water. Jackson Flat has a 4,000,000 acre foot storage capacity. This additional secondary water source could also be used to meet other outdoor public needs such as the golf course, parks and schools.

The District has joined with Kanab City to make Jackson Flat Reservoir a recreational area. A hiking/walking path around the lake is included in the vision. They hope to create a place where people can gather, learn about and enjoy the great outdoors. The facility will be a place where people can boat, picnic, bike and hike with friends and family.

(Water) current news

The KCWCD had outgrown its old digs in the Mountain America Credit Union building in Kanab. The new office building was built on property owned by KCWCD, and overlooks the Jackson Flat Reservoir with the red cliffs surrounding Kanab in the background.

Governor Gary Herbert was an early visitor to the building during an April 19 state visit with the Kane County Commissioners. At that time, the Governor was asked what his top concern for the state of Utah was.

“Water,” responded Herbert, citing the challenges of the burgeoning population growth in the state. Governor Herbert complimented Mike Noel and the KCWCD for foresight for water source development, improvement, storage and delivery.

The new building cost approximately $1.4 million, but only has a debt service of about $500,000. The KCWCD received an $800,000 grant. The beautiful, 6066 square foot stone, stucco and glass building has eight offices with two large conference rooms, a kitchen and large downstairs area for potential growth.

The current KCWCD project, of which has been funded through a special appropriation, is the ‘Sherry Belle” hiking trail, named after Noel’s late wife. “It’ll be a paved asphalt trail around the reservoir,” said Mike Noel, adding that District employee Kelly Brown is in charge of building more family-oriented activities. “It should be in place in the next 90 days.”

Noel expressed pride in what the KCWCD has accomplished in its 25 years of existence. He said Kane County’s water quality, supply and delivery has improved dramatically. “Our water resources are much more stable.”