In support of Lake Powell pipeline, Romney oversimplifies Western water shortage

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mitt Romney during the debate with U.S. Democratic Senate candidate Jenny Wilson in Cedar City, Utah., Oct. 9, 2018. | Photo by James M. Dobson/The Spectrum via Associated Press, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Mitt Romney took up the question of water shortage this week in Utah, one of the driest states in the country, during a debate as he runs for a U.S. Senate seat in his adopted home state against Democrat Jenny Wilson. But federal water managers say he oversimplified a complex issue when he said Utah’s unused water allotment goes to California.

Water use is a perennial issue in the arid West, especially along the overtaxed Colorado River, which supplies about 40 million people in seven Southwestern states as well as Mexico.

Asked whether Utah needs to regulate water use or bring in more supply, Wilson focused primarily on the need to conserve. Domestic water use per capita in Utah was the second-highest in the country in 2015, according to a report from the Utah Geological Survey.

Romney, meanwhile, said he supports conservation as well as a plan to build a billion-dollar pipeline to take water from the Lake Powell reservoir to southern Utah.

Here’s what Romney said:

One of the things that we benefit from is the arrangement we have with other states. We came together some years ago and decided how we would divide up the water in the Colorado River. We’re not taking as much as we have the right to take, and if we don’t take our full share from the Colorado River it ends up going to California and they take our share.

Here’s what The Associated Press Fact Check found:

It’s true that Utah doesn’t use its full share of water it’s allotted from the Colorado River, but it’s not quite right to say California gets Utah’s extra water, said Marlon Duke, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency that manages water in the West.

Lake Powell, St. George News

The information Romney referenced comes from Utah water managers who support the pipeline, and they maintain they are being shortchanged in favor of states farther downriver, including California.

California, Arizona and Nevada, known collectively as the Lower Basin, are guaranteed a certain amount of water from the river, according to the 1922 Colorado River Compact.

A group of less-populous states known as the Upper Basin, including Utah, divide up the rest. Utah, for example, was allotted 23 percent of the remainder, while Colorado gets about 52 percent, according to another compact signed in 1948. The rest is divided between New Mexico and Wyoming.

None of Upper Basin states uses its full share of water from Colorado River, Duke said.

The extra water is stored in the reservoir at Lake Powell, and from there it goes on to the Lower Basin states as well as Mexico.

In recent years, more water has been leaving the reservoir than the amount allocated to the Lower Basin states due to natural loss from evaporation or seepage.

Water managers in Southern Utah say that gives Lower Basin states, California chief among them, an unfair advantage.

The fast-growing St. George area is going to need more water, and can’t long afford to allow other states the benefit of the doubt, said Ron Thompson with the Washington County Water Conservancy District.

Be that as it may, it’s inaccurate to suggest that California is taking more than their share of water, Duke said. The state’s usage is within its legal share.

Written by LINDSAY WHITEHURST, Associated Press.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • beacon October 12, 2018 at 6:02 pm

    He definitely simplified the issue. It’s complex but he really missed the mark. Hope he’s not the one making the LPP decision!

  • iceplant October 12, 2018 at 6:12 pm

    Carpet baggin’ Mitt.
    Hey, Utah! Do you honestly think this yahoo gives one rat’s patoot about you?
    Send this man packing back to his real home on the East Coast.

    • mesaman October 12, 2018 at 9:31 pm

      Spoken like a true rank and file socialist democrat. Whom do you give a rat’s patoot about? YOU?

      • iceplant October 13, 2018 at 7:04 am

        No, actually. I give a crap about my children’s future. I have kids old enough to understand that their country is in turmoil and that it all starts at the top. People like Mitt, and you, don’t care enough to see that. All you care about is worshipping the cult of personality ie: your orange king.

        I’ll gladly accept being a democratic socialist. I am not, however, a socialist democrat. Do yourself a favor and learn how to distinguish between the two.

  • Not_So_Much October 13, 2018 at 6:32 am

    We really need Tim Aalders in the US Senate. Tim is from Utah, cares about the state, the Constitution, our national debt and will do all he can (which is more than you might think, due to the rules in the Senate).
    Also, 1 BILLION dollars does not include interest and estimates currently take the total to 3 billion dollars. Any funding from the State is basically a loan and the people of the water district will be footing the bill. So, the real issue is why is all this growth at break neck numbers being allowed to happen? It will continue until enough voters say no more we need to be much more realistic about growth while we conserve.

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