By Katrina Stacey
In Wasatch County, Utah, Deer Creek Reservoir serves as the main drinking water source for 65 percent of all Utahans; however, water quality and other resource concerns have been identified by local landowners. Total maximum daily load (TMDL) and water quality studies showed that phosphorous loads in the reservoir were very high, and that Main Creek was a big contributor. The studies found that while Main Creek contributes eight percent of the flow into the reservoir, it contributes 17 percent to the reservoir’s phosphorus load.
County partners set out to address this issue, and the Wasatch Conservation District became the lead agency for watershed improvement. In 2012, the district conducted a series of landowner meetings to help brainstorm ways to solve this problem.
“It was really neat that it happened this way,” said Daniel Gunnell, the district’s resource coordinator. “It wasn’t the Utah Division of Water Quality going in and telling them what they need to do to fix it. It was the conservation district bringing all the landowners together and saying, ‘We have a problem, what can we do to fix it?’”
According to Gunnell, these meetings were extremely successful. The landowners identified all the major problem areas in the watershed and where they should first focus their stream restoration projects.
“By doing stream restoration and keeping the banks in place, we were getting the best bang-for-our-buck to control phosphorous loading into the Deer Creek Reservoir,” said Gunnell.
Work began in Sept. 2013 and is still ongoing. Since it began, the project has restored 9.5 miles of streams in the watershed. Stream restoration came in many forms, including vegetation planting, cross bank installation, fence installation and more. The area is home to many cattle operations, so the district also installed a lot of cross fences to allow for rotational grazing.
“One landowner was able to increase his herd by about double, because he was better able to utilize his vegetation and water,” Gunnell said.
Gunnell acknowledged that this work would not have been possible if not for the numerous partners involved. “We had an extraordinary number of partnerships that were created for this, and even unusual partnerships that you wouldn’t think would happen for conservation,” he said.
Visit this link to learn more about the project.