In search of a new source of drinking water for county residents, the Washington County Water Conservancy District (WCD) is proposing to drill 18 deep water extraction wells at depths of 1100 to 5500 feet below ground surface (bgs) in the northern part of the county. The proposed wells would be drilled below the shallow groundwater aquifers we currently use for our culinary water supply into two deep groundwater aquifers known as Aquifer C and R. The proposed deep wells, if drilled, are stated by the WCD to produce 12,900 acre-feet (AF) of water annually.
Conserve Southwest Utah (CSU), along with 60 other organizations including the Church of the Latter Day Saints, protested the WCD’s permit application in writing in late April with the State Water Engineer. A copy of our filed protest is provided here.
While CSU supports the development of new and alternate water supplies in the county, the WCD’s proposal presents some troubling issues:
- The annual withdrawal rate of 12,900 AF may not be sustainable and could exceed the recharge rate for these two deep aquifers, draining a potentially ‘ancient aquifer’ permanently.
- It is unknown if these deep aquifers are connected hydraulically to the shallow aquifers above them and/or to the nearby Virgin River or even the Colorado River. If they are connected to nearby water sources, this project could negatively impact other water rights holders and users in the area who use it in their daily life or business.
- The deep aquifers water quality is not known and could be brackish or contain other naturally occurring elements that may require extensive above ground treatment when extracted.
Some studies have been performed on this deep aquifer. However there remains significant gaps in our understanding of the hydrology, connectivity, and quality of the groundwater. No deep test well or wells have been drilled to confirm the assumptions made in the WCD’s permit application to the State Water Engineer. Until these questions and risks can be addressed, CSU will remain opposed to this project.