Cartoons can speak 1000 words, and in this case, Salt Lake Tribune’s political cartoonist Pat Bagley nailed it. The state of Utah released its Water Resources Plan, which is designed to be a roadmap for the statewide water management strategy for the next 50 years. Unfortunately, the Water Resources Plan (WRP) appears to be mainly a state sponsored document to convince taxpayers that the same jumbo and antiquated projects like the Lake Powell Pipeline (LPP) are the best response to the rapidly changing and worsening conditions in the West: rising temperatures, megadroughts, and devastating wildfires. We know there are better answers that are cheaper, more sustainable, and dependable than pursuing the Lake Powell Pipeline.
The biggest problem: Conserve Southwest Utah believes that the WRP is based on a faulty premise.
Faulty premise: Utah plans to take more water from the dwindling Colorado River for development while implementing only a moderate change to how residents in Utah and especially Washington County utilize water. For example, The WRP targets a very modest residential water use reduction for Washington County, and the plan suggests that the county reduce water use to 240 gpcd by 2040 with no improvement to 2075. Similar desert communities are currently using 140 gpcd.
CSU’s recommendation is to offer a statewide plan for how Utahns will successfully manage our current water resources and develop a vibrant economy without taking more water from the Colorado River.
The plan is out of step, and the Department of Natural Resources needs to hear about it.
The WRP is 157 pages in length and somewhat technical. We have provided the WRP for your reference. We have also provided a menu of 5 comments you might want to offer to the Department of Natural Resources regarding the faulty premise we have described. Revising and tailoring the suggestions to better reflect your personal standpoint is encouraged.
The Utah State Water Resources Plan, click here.
Possible points to include in your comment on the Utah Water Resources Plan:
- In the WRP, the Division of Water Resources announced that Washington County would run out of water in 10 years. This is an untrue statement and should be corrected in the final Plan. The Washington County Water Conservancy District has failed to provide an accurate inventory of water in the county that would be available for development by others in 2075. This is documented in the 2021 Local Waters Alternative to the Lake Powell Pipeline 2.0 study completed by Western Resource Advocates. Washington County will not run out of water in 10 years if it develops other local water supplies and implement meaningful water conservation practices throughout the county. This statement is a scare tactic that is unethical and is being employed to garner public support for the Lake Powell Pipeline.
- The Bureau of Reclamation has gone on record to say there are more rights allocated for the use of the Colorado River than the Colorado River produces annually, even without considering climate change. The Lake Powell Pipeline has junior water rights to the Colorado River, and users with senior rights will be granted water first from the increasingly dwindling flow. As a result, the Lake Powell Pipeline is not a secure or dependable source of water. Continuing to argue over access to a diminishing supply is wasting time and financial resources that could be devoted to developing dynamic water conservation measures, metering all water use, putting measuring devices on all streams in Utah and implementing more reuse methods.
- Include in your comments the recommendation from the State Water Strategy team’s July of 2017 50-year water plan that is in Envision Utah’s water report:
“Provide adequate funding and investments for effective water efficiency and conservation. Funding and investments are needed to fully realize the potential contributions and return on investment that water efficiency and conservation efforts can make to provide for Utah’s water future. Water agencies should budget for water conservation programs similarly to how they budget to develop new water supplies. Funding for conservation measures also should be made available on an ongoing basis. Investments should be made in water demand management infrastructure to measure, track, report, and implement efficiency standards. Needed resources also include agency staffing and budgeting to better integrate conservation into water systems, enhance ongoing interactions with the public, deliver conservation programs, and conduct research and evaluation. Many different states, regional, and local entities can help promote water conservation, so funding and resources from multiple sources need to be allocated to these efforts. Ongoing and sufficient support for water efficiency and conservation should be prioritized and forthcoming to make these efforts effective at contributing to Utah’s water future.”
- No effort or more funding should be exercised to complete the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process for the Lake Powell Pipeline. Last year’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement was challenged by various parties, including the other Colorado River Compact states, because it introduced arbitrary and capricious justifications, including a “need” for a “secondary source” to a diminishing resource, the Colorado River.
The Lake Powell Pipeline EIS process was stopped, and the issues at the root of the six states’ claims have not been resolved. For Utah to move ahead with the NEPA process in seeking approval for the Lake Powell Pipeline, the state will, in effect, be inviting a water war with neighboring states who have warned that litigation will be pursued if Utah doesn’t settle these issues first with them before pursuing federal approval.
- The WRP must place more attention on how to educate, inspire, incentivize the public with water conservation practices along with implementing and enforcing crucial conservation policies. The state is facing a water crisis, and citizens need to know what they can do individually to make a difference. Expanding the Utah Water Savers program is crucial, and it has been successful.
How to submit your comment:
The State Division of Water Resources has required that you use their form to submit your comment. Once you open the link, CLICK HERE you can write your comments into the form, including copying and pasting the comments provided.
CSU would appreciate receiving a copy of your comment. Please copy the content on the form and email it to:
Please don’t hesitate to email us if you have questions.
Deadline: midnight November 15, 2021