Water – Lake Powell Pipeline
Click Here: LPP Update FINAL (a summary of the project 2017)
The Lake Powell Pipeline (LPP) spans 139 miles (map) from Lake Powell to Washington County, Utah. The State of Utah (Utah) wants to develop about 361,000 acre-feet of its remaining share of the Colorado River and a portion of this (86,249 acre-feet) is allocated for the Lake Powell Pipeline (LPP). But, there are risks depending on this remaining share because it may not be present in the river system due to: increased use; reduced flows from rising temperatures; over allocation; junior priority of LPP’s water right; and unsettled Federal Reserve Water Rights claims. Utah’s Colorado River water rights are not fixed and as water availability goes down so does its allocation. Utah’s allocation is 23% of what remains after senior water rights holders are met.
The laws that govern the Colorado River have allocated more water annually than the river produces. This is an economic risk that Utah has ignored and is not addressed in the Lake Powell Pipeline studies.
Utah has a water right to 1.4 million acre-feet of depletions from the Colorado River Compact to use, with the balance of water that flows through the state required to go downstream to the Lower Basin states. This allocation is based on a river flow of 15 million acre-feet yearly (MAFY). 15 million acre feet is used in modeling and it is how much water would naturally flow through the states if there were no diversions. Studies show the Colorado River is only producing about 12.5 MAFY, which is predicted to decrease due to increasing temperatures.
We have heard a lot of talk that Utah must hurry to use all its Colorado River rights or the Lower Basin states will take it. But, Utah may have already used its share.
The current project cost estimates range from $1.3 to $1.6 billion. The project includes a $600 million Hurricane Cliffs Pump Storage Project. It has two reservoirs and at night when power is cheaper water is pumped up to the top reservoir and then release again in the day time to produce power. Although, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has not approved a pump storage project in over 20 years. This is being proposed to show the project will make a lot of money. But, a major problem with pump storage; it is not profitable. The power produced will be far more expensive that what utilities can buy power for on the open market. The State of Utah said it will not pay for such a project and Washington County residents will have to pay for it without cheaper state financing. We assume the reason the Water District included a pump storage project is to try to show an economic value and to keep the project within FERC’s purview as the lead agency.
The State of Utah and Washington County Water District keep pushing for this pipeline project despite its high cost and apparent lack of real need by 2024. 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 $186 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. In their eight year $33 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. 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. But, 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.
Click here: Lake Powell Pipeline White Paper 2-10-17
Washington County is not running out of water. 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 such as seasonally raising prices in July, 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 inaccurate and outdated water use data, 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. Steps are now being taken to currect the water use and supply data.
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
The Colorado River does not annual produce enough water to meet existing demands. 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 for 16 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. The state is not considering this economic risk.Click Here is explanation of the Risks of Depending on the Colorado River Jan 2018. Click Here The Twenty-First Century Colorado River hot drought and implications for the future. Bradley Udall and Overpeak 2017
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. The Pipeline is not the answer and is unsustainable over time. 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.
Lake Powell Pipeline:
- Economist Letter to Governor 2015
- Economists report pipeline 2015
- Local Waters Alternative fact sheet
- Local Waters Alternative full report 2012
- CDF letter LPP Model Aguero
- Water Conservation Eliminates Need for Lake Powell Pipeline
- Can You Afford the Lake Powell Pipeline?
- Lake Powell Pipeline Development Act 2006
- Economists letter on LPP repayment
- Estimated 2008 Cost Pipeline
- Utah’s Climate is changing 2014
- The Face of Waste in Utah
- Lake Powell Pipeline Alternatives
- Review of Water Supply Needs in Washington County – Hydrosphere Report
- Water, climate change, and sustainability in the Southwest
- Is the Lake Powell Pipeline Really Needed? R. Ingebretson
- Scripps Study: When will Lake Mead go dry?
- Utah Division of Water Resources Project Updates & map
- Cost of Water Treatment
Lake Powell Pipeline in the News
- Population growth, water use in desert 7.2
- The desert’s limited lifeblood 6.17
- Colorado River Study and the Law of the River 3.20.13
- In an arid land, we must manage our thirst | The Salt Lake Tribune
- Water Piped West to Denver Could Ease Stress on Colo. River – NYTimes 12.9.12
- My view_ Population projections cripple the case for the Lake Powell Pipeline _ Deseret News 10.24.12
- Utah needs a water policy _ The Salt Lake Tribune
- Water is life _ The Salt Lake Tribune 8.29.12
- Pipeline_ Pay up! _ The Salt Lake Tribune 7.21.12
- Extreme Weather and Drought Are Here to Stay – NYTimes 8.11.12
- Slowing growth may delay or kill Lake Powell Pipeline _ The Salt Lake Tribune 7.31.12
- Stretching the Colorado River – Las Vegas Sun News 8.13.12
- Southwestern Drought, in Fact and Film – NYTimes 7.20.12
- Water Supplies Past Tipping Point 7.14.12
- June Lake Powell Inflow 13 Percent of Average 7.12.12
- Empty straw _ The Salt Lake Tribune 6.30.12
- Powell pipeline a billion-dollar gamble_ _ The Salt Lake Tribune 6.21.12
- Water wise _ The Salt Lake Tribune
- Utah criticized for ignoring climate change in water planning _ The Salt Lake Tribune
- Can St. George Afford the Lake Powell Pipeline?