After a dismally dry late winter, spring storms are boosting water storage levels, as well as one local water manager’s confidence in the short-term water outlook.

Total rain and snowfall for the water year that began last October jumped from 62 percent of average one month ago to 73 percent of average last week. As of May 13, total measured precipitation at one monitoring station in the La Sal Mountains jumped up to 17.3 inches.

If the wet weather continues through the season, the Grand Water and Sewer Service Agency (GWSSA) may consider the possibility of scaling back its restrictions on large-scale irrigators.

Coincidentally enough, the first of the big storms arrived just before the GWSSA’s last meeting in April. At that time, agency manager Mark Sovine announced that he’d been in touch with some of the district’s biggest customers to let them know about the restrictions.

As storm after storm kept rolling through the area, Sovine said he’s begun to feel much better than he did three weeks ago.

“This year is looking pretty good,” he said during the GWSSA board’s May 7 meeting. “The lake’s starting to fill, and with the weather we’ve had, nobody has been using the system.”

In the three weeks between GWSSA board meetings, lake levels were up by 71 acre-feet to 1,510 acre-feet, or more than 492,035,654 gallons of water.

“We’ve got water going in faster than we’ve got it coming out, which is a good thing,” Sovine said.

Unfortunately – and perhaps inevitably – some culinary water is leaking out of the agency’s water tank system.

The agency found that just over 7 percent of its culinary water was lost to leaks in 2014, although that number has been trending downward since 2008, according to Sovine.

“On a system our size, spread out as big as it is, that’s very good,” he said.

Sovine called the GWSSA’s 3 million-gallon water tank its “main lifeblood” — especially for customers at the southern end of the system.

But that system has been plagued by four water line breaks in the last few years.

The most recent report of a break came in on April 1, and at first, Sovine assumed it might have been an April Fool’s joke. It wasn’t.

Each leak costs around $10,000 to repair, according to GWSSA operating committee vice president Gary Wilson, who noted that the leaks waste significant amounts of water.

“We’ve dumped around a million and a million and a half gallons of water down the drain every time that happens, so it gets to the point of, ‘What are you going to do?’” Wilson said. “It’s past that point, actually.”

For a more lasting fix, GWSSA board voted unanimously last week to approve a bond resolution to fund a major water line repair project.

“It’s something we need to address, for sure,” GWSSA Board chairman Dan Pyatt said.

Work on the project, which is expected to cost about $272,000, could begin after the Fourth of July holiday.

The agency is taking out a five-year, low-interest loan to fund the project, and Sovine predicts it will be in a position to pay off the loan ahead of time at no additional cost to its customers.

“We are not looking at any rate increases (to fund this), and we see no reason at this point to have any,” he said.

Looking beyond that project, the GWSSA still hopes to reduce Spanish Valley’s overall, per capita water use by 10 percent.

GWSSA customers already use less water per capita than others around the state. In 2014, they went through a per capita average of 214 gallons per day, compared to the statewide average of 240 gallons per day.

But that figure doesn’t distinguish between year-round residents and short-term visitors, and agency officials say the actual per capita numbers could be even lower.

Even when the nonresident population is factored into the total water use within the agency’s service area, the numbers are still comparatively low, according to GWSSA assistant Dana van Horn.

“We’re still below the state average,” she said. “In other words, the people who actually live here who are counted in the census use probably even well below that if we’re just counting them.”

Van Horn said the agency will work with the Moab Area Travel Council to come up with a list of overnight rentals in unincorporated Spanish Valley; it can then begin to compile data and compare those numbers with residential use.

If it ultimately finds, for instance, that nightly renters at Rim Village are using twice as much water per month as a full-time resident, the agency might gear its water conservation message toward the visitor population. Van Horn suggested that the agency could hand out cards to short-term rental owners that say: “Don’t waste water.”

Sovine said he thinks it’s important to make the distinction between permanent residents and visitors, since the state’s water conservation plan focuses on per capita water use.

“Using that standard, it really skews our numbers, so we would really want to use this non-resident number … to help justify our water use,” he said. “Our water use may say this much, but when you take these factors into consideration, our per capita water use is really closer to this.”

Ken’s Lake levels are up; water-related anxiety is down

This year is looking pretty good … The lake’s starting to fill, and with the weather we’ve had, nobody has been using the system.