City in Summit County halts new construction over drought concerns

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OAKLEY CITY, Utah (ABC4) – Facing a historic drought, Oakley City officials say they’re doing whatever they can to conserve water, including the ban on any new construction projects that would tap into the city’s water.

Mayor Wade Woolstenhulme says the move is all about avoiding a crisis, a hypothetical scenario he’s been forced to think about as Utah enters what could be the worst fire season on record.

“If a fire broke out in town, and the fire department came to hook into a fire hydrant to put it out, they would have no water,” said Woolstenhulme.

“We have to maintain so much depth in our tanks for that purpose. And if we don’t, and fire breaks out, then the city’s liable,” he added.

Those possibilities, he says, are the reason the city council this month voted on the moratorium that extends to November. Previously, they’d implemented yard watering restrictions, and that’s when city residents gave him feedback that he took to heart.

“If you guys are so concerned about water,” people would say, “why keep issuing building permits — because don’t we need water for us first?”

The moratorium on building permits just made sense, he says, and so far he’s received no complaints from residents. Also put on hold are permits for landscaping on existing property if the landscaping will require any irrigation that sources city water.

All of it, he says, is rooted in preventing the worst case scenario for the residents of Oakley.

“We would run out of water, and you’d turn your tap on to get a drink and there wouldn’t be any water there,” said Woolstenhulme.

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