Water – Lake Powell Pipeline


 Click Here: New Lake Powell Pipeline UPDATE

The Lake Powell Pipeline (Pipeline) project spans 139 miles (map) and would pump approximately 86,000 acre feet of water from Lake Powell to Washington and Kane Counties. The current project cost estimates range from $1.3 to $1.6 billion. The project also includes a pump storage project and FERC has not approved a pump storage project in 20 years. A major problem with the pump storage is it is not profitable and it is not explained how the water district will pay for this project. The power produced will be far more expensive than what customers can buy on the open power market. We assume the reason the district included this project is to keep the project within FERC’s purview. The Water District doesn’t plan to build it anytime soon yet they want to get it approved.

The State of Utah and Washington County Water District keep pushing for this project despite its high cost and apparent lack of real need by 2020. Washington County continues to be the west’s most wasteful water user and can do far more to use water more efficiently. Initial project costs were estimated at $250 million and have now skyrocketed to over billions of dollars. Our small communities cannot afford the Pipeline. The entire repayment burden will fall on the shoulders of Washington and Kane County residents. The residents have a right to know how much they will pay in higher impact fees, surcharges, and taxes for the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline before the project is approved. With a project of this size this lack of transparency is troubling.  However, in their eight year $30 million study, these questions are still not answered and will not be answered. The Water District has also failed to explain how they will be able pay the high annual payments to the state.

How Will Washington County Pay?

Impact fees are already the highest in the state and builders are not building affordable housing and this situation will get worse with higher fees from the Lake Powell Pipeline. Under the current plan, every family or business that buys a building permit would pay for the Pipeline through impact fees. The Water District assumes growth and impact fees will pay all the costs. To cover any shortfall in impact fees, the Water District also imposed a Water Development Surcharge ($1.75 per month) on all residents of cities that signed their Regional Pipeline Agreement. This surcharge can be increased at any time to protect the district’s bond rating. We also pay for water in our utility bills and pay again in our property taxes. The debt will fall on all residents to pay for the Lake Powell Pipeline.

The Lake Powell Pipeline Studies

The Utah Division of Water Resources released the Draft Study Reports and Preliminary Licensing Proposal (PLP) for the Lake Powell Pipeline Project (FERC Project No. 12966) on December 1, 2015. The finalized PLP will become part of Exhibit E. within the Hydropower License Application scheduled to be filed in March 2017.

All of the studies should be completed by March 2017. FERC will give a Notice of Acceptance that the studies are ready for Environmental Analysis. There will be a 60 day comment period. Then a 45 day response to comments. Then within 180 days FERC will issue a Draft Environmental Impact Statement; then the public has 60 days to comment; FERC responds to comments in 45 days; then in 90 days FERC makes it final decision on the EIS.

If the project EIS is approved with a Record of Decision in early 2019 they will finalize the design and by 2020 Pipeline construction starts, it will take at least 4 years to complete 2024. Water deliveries expected to begin after construction is completed.

 press release on project.

Click here: Lake Powell Pipeline White Paper 2-10-17

Click Here: How to Comment to FERC

Alternatives

Washington County is not running out of water in just three years by 2020.  The Water District’s own report to FITCH a credit agency; the Water District explains it has plenty of water. The Water District is only counting a small amount of the existing water supplies.  The Utah Division of Water Resources’ reports show there is more water in Washington County than the Water District identifies: more agricultural water, more water rights held by private land-owners, more water yield of existing water projects. Other options for future supply include: common sense cheaper alternatives such as, water pricing, water budget rates, metering all water use, landscape ordinances, more reuse, using more recycled water, treating ground water and storm water capture.

To justify the need for the Pipeline the Water District’s forecast for water demand is artificially high. Their estimates incorporate unrealistic population forecasts, outdated water use data, and unreasonably low estimates of the costs of the Pipeline and low estimates of future water conservation. Creating a standard to collect accurate baseline data of water use and supply is critical to developing more accurate future water demand projections and this has not been done.

A less costly, achievable alternative should be studied in the EIS to meet future water supply demand and unfortunately it is not. Western Resource Advocates wrote a Local Waters Alternative (see Below). Water efficiency measures and  conservation reductions should be implemented across all sectors including residential indoor and outdoor use, commercial, industrial, secondary, agriculture, and institutional water use. A solution is for communities to start a water budget that has worked in other communities to reduce water use dramatically. We held a water sustainability workshop in October on how to create a water budget and read our information in water conservation section of this web page.

An Unreliable Water Resource

Depending on the diminishing Colorado River for future water supply is unsustainable. Recent reports from the Bureau of Reclamation show that the river is over allocated and flows will continue to decrease. Colorado River Compact allocations are for16 million acre feet year (MAFY) and the river is only producing 12.5 MAFY. Utah’s compact water rights are only a percentage (23%) of what is left after higher priority water rights are met. Since 2002 the average water demand already outstrips average supplies. Read more on the Colorado River Water Supply and Demand Study. Investing billions of dollars into a project that may not produce water in the future is a financial risk not worth taking. Using water more efficiently and water conservation measures are the least expensive option.
Here is explanation of the risk of depending on the Colorado River for more water.

Become Self-Reliant

Supply uncertainty arises largely from boom and bust cycles of population growth. The financial risks associated with these forecasts are greater if a single large project is built. The current approach to the Pipeline project could unduly commit residents to high repayment obligations if demand or costs are very different than projected. Washington County has some of the highest per capita use and the lowest prices for the water in the west. A higher priority should be on collecting accurate water use and supply data, becoming efficient in our water use first, by boosting local water supplies, increasing conservation, creating pricing strategies, and reuse that could result in significant cost savings and provide enough water for growth. CSU is not anti-growth; we are for fiscal responsibility and growing smarter without burdening the county with massive debt it can’t afford. Southwest Utah is blessed with many sources of local water that can be developed incrementally as needed, at a fraction of the cost of the Pipeline. We should be pursuing a strategy of making our area more self-reliant by reducing water demand and developing new and unused water resources locally. These actions could contribute to a more reliable water supplies. Local water sources will deliver southern Utah’s future affordably and reliably, without burdening present and future generations with a massive debt and a water supply vulnerable to drought, litigation, political conflict, controversy, and uncertainty.

How to Comment to FERC