Topic 6: Utah has already allocated water rights to more than 100% of the physical water within its Colorado River watershed, meaning senior (older) rights will likely prevent use of the LPP water right during current and future droughts.

What the Draft EIS says or doesn’t say:

  • BOR has left any and all determinations of water availability and water rights within Utah up to the state.

Why this is a problem:

  • Water rights have a priority date, and a senior water right has an earlier date of water use; later dates of use constitute a more junior right.
  • The LPP water right is junior in priority to the Northern Ute Tribe, Navajo and other tribal rights, other federal reserved water rights not yet determined, water rights established before 1958, the Central Utah Project’s Bonneville Unit (as well as the Lower Basin states and Mexico).
  • The water right being used to supply the LPP doesn’t have high enough priority status to guarantee the water will be available over the long term.
  • As water supplies decline the competition for physical water will increase and result in litigation and uncertainty for junior water rights holders such as the LPP because their junior rights may not entitle them to use the water. This, combined with the uncertainty of future water in the Colorado River due to climate change, makes relying on water rights from Lake Powell very risky.
  • BOR owes it to the other states in the Colorado River Compact to ensure that Utah is not over allocating its physical water and making it even more difficult for Utah to meet its Compact obligation to supply water to the Lower Basin. 

Commenting guidance:

  • The BOR must require Utah to provide evidence that, after the LPP is in use, adequate water will still be available to the Lower Basin in compliance with the Colorado River Compact.
  • The BOR cannot ignore that the Northern Ute Tribe has senior water rights over the LPP—unlike the states. BOR has had a critical role in protecting Native American water rights in the Colorado River; these rights are senior to any Utah right and BOR must protect them but, by approving the LPP, they would be undermining tribal rights.

Personal Note/Experience:

  • Are you concerned because building the LPP would increase the likelihood of lawsuits within the state over who has the rights to the decreasing physical water flows within our state and the Colorado River? Tell the BOR what you think.