ST. GEORGE – A touring public town hall created to discuss and solicit ideas on how Utah can best meet its water needs and challenges will come to St. George at Dixie State University Thursday. While a myriad of issues are likely to be presented, any discussion of future water needs in Washington County is likely to bring up the Lake Powell Pipeline.
Created by Gov. Gary Herbert, the “Utah’s Water Future” began traveling through Utah July 9, starting in Richfield. According to the forum’s website, Utah is the one of the fastest growing states in the nation. It’s also one of the driest.
“That combination presents obvious challenges for how we manage our water,” an online flier for the town hall states. “To meet our growing water needs, Gov. Herbert is seeking innovative solutions from the public that don’t break the bank or dry up our streams – ideas that are a win-win for all Utahns.”
Water experts chosen by the governor have been conducting the meetings throughout the state thus far. “They’ve been asked to listen, seek public comment, and find out-of-the-box solutions to meet Utah’s water needs,” the flier says.
Examples of what the governor and his experts want the public’s thoughts on include:
- Using our water more efficiently
- Addressing competition for water resources
- Meeting the water needs of our growing population while protecting the environment, and the beauty and outdoor lifestyle we enjoy
- Funding the construction of new and maintenance of existing water infrastructure
- The availability and use of water for agriculture
- Addressing the complicated issues around water law and its application
Shadow of the pipeline
Ron Thompson, general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District, previously said in a May 23 meeting of the district’s Community Integrated Resource Planning Advisory Committee (CIRPAC), that the county will have developed all of its water resources by 2020. These resources do not include the proposed pipeline.
In the same meeting, Jeremy Aguero, of Applied Analysis out of Nevada, shared a presentation detailing the potential economic impacts future water needs will have on Washington County.
Washington County currently has 74,600 acre feet of water available. This sustains a population of 154,000 people who use an estimated 45,683 acre feet of water. If current demands on the water supply remain stable for the coming years, Aguero said the county’s water supply will reach capacity by 2031.
With the population continuing to grow, Aguero said the county may actually reach its water capacity between 12 and 14 years.
The pipeline may be “vital to the protection of the (local) economy,” Aguero said. It would provide water resource stability, something those considering relocating to the community like to see, as well as diversify that resource beyond the Virgin River.
Since the May 23 meeting the WCWCD and Aguero have presented the analysis to the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce and Washington County Economic Development Council. A scaled down version on the analysis was shared with the St. George City Council.
Not everyone is convinced of the need for the pipeline, however. With a price tag of $1 billion attached, some people feel it is too pricy. Others, like the environmental advocacy group Citizens for Dixie’s Future, see it as something that will only add to the depletion of the Colorado River and encourage wasteful water use in Southern Utah.
“(The pipeline is) a dangerous proposition,” said Christi Wedig during the CIRPAC meeting. Formerly of Citizens for Dixie’s Future, Wedig now serves as the executive director of the Glen Canyon Institute.
Current water outlook
Currently in Washington County, Sand Hollow and Quail Creek reservoirs are at a combined 60 percent capacity. Kolob reservoir is at 95 percent capacity and Gunlock is at 48 percent.
Water flow in the Virgin River in June was at 40 percent at its average. Karry Rathje, public information manager for the WCWCD, said “a small fraction of that water is suitable to treat and put in our system. So the 40 percent flow levels, though drastically low, inflate the amount of water we’re able to actually secure and use.”
The Utah Water’s Future town hall meeting will be held at the Dunford Auditorium on the Dixie State University Campus from 7-9 p.m., Thursday, July 25. A public comment period will be followed by breakout sessions on specific areas of focus.
Those unable to attend the meeting are encouraged to visit the Utah’s Water Future website and submit their ideas online.
- What: Utah’s Water Future town hall meeting
- When: Thursday, 7-9 p.m., July 25
- Where: Dunford Auditorium, Dixie State University
- Wedig: Help shape Utah’s water future – Salt Lake Tribune, July 13, 2012
- Water Line, Summer 2013 edition – Washington County Conservancy District news letter
Copyright St. George News, StGeorgeUtah.com Inc., 2013, all rights reserved.