Washington County M&I Water Use 303 GPCD

A Washington County Water Conservancy District (WCWCD) June 2018 press release reported our water use at 303 gallons per capita per day (GPCD). This includes: Residential 143 GPCD, Second Homes, Commercial, Institutional, Industrial is 88 GPCD,Secondary not treated (outdoor parks, cemeteries , golf courses, etc.) is 72 GPCD with a total of 303 GPCD.

The national average is 179 GPCD.

The Utah Division of Water Resources (UDWRe) and the Washington County Water Conservancy District (WCWCD) keep pushing for the Lake Powell Pipeline project despite the fact that Washington County continues to be one of the West’s most wasteful water users.

UDWRe and WCWCD assert in the draft EIS for the Lake Powell Pipeline that implementing conservation to enable us to live within our “water means” would severely restrict outdoor watering, which would undermine the region’s economy, environment, quality of life, and tourism. CSU does not see it that way nor, apparently, do other desert cities that have grown vibrant economies and tourism while continuing to reduce their water demand through effective conservation, and which use less water now than the state plans for our area in 2065. The old adage that growing populations need more water has been disproven time and again.

Handling the Demand with Local Water
Contrary to WCWCD’s assertions, southern Utah has abundant local water from diverse sources, and there are myriad ways we can improve our water supply and use to sustain our growth for many years at a fraction of the cost of the LPP. We should be using accurate data and making our area more self-reliant by reducing water demand and developing new and improving existing local water resources.

We Are Not Running Out of Water
UDWRe warned in 2009 that we would run out of water in 2020, but that is clearly not the case. The WCWCD itself reports that the cities have additional supplies not identified as future water by the WCWCD:

“Based on the Utah Division of Water Rights point of diversion coverage, there are 1,276 active underground water rights with points of diversion within the Navajo/Kayenta and the Upper Ash creek aquifers. These water rights claim 590 cfs [cubic feet per second] or 332,760 acre-feet/year from the petitioned aquifers.” [emphasis added]

Compare that to the Lake Powell Pipeline’s promise of 86,000 acre-feet per year. The problem is the WCWCD doesn’t consider all the water supplies that could convert to culinary or secondary use by 2060. These include:

1.      As agricultural lands are developed more water will become available for M&I use.

2.      Increased efficiency of the WCWCD’s current water projects (estimates for water provided from their projects are overly conservative).

3.      Private landowners hold water rights which become available as land is developed.

4.      Increased reuse[1] and treatment or simple dilution of abundant brackish water.

5.      Increased output from municipal sources not counted by the WCWCD.

6.      Stormwater capture and rainwater harvesting.

7.      Use of grey water.

Additional Agricultural Water – Not “Buy and Dry”
Once a rural place dominated by irrigated agriculture, southern Utah is now in transition to a more urban community. This transition must follow a 21st century model to make our communities more sustainable and affordable places for our children and grandchildren to live. Water use efficiency is only one component, but an essential one.

CSU is not advocating for drying up farms; indeed, it would be beyond our power to stop it. We are simply noting that, as development occurs on agricultural lands, water will be used for housing as has happened elsewhere in Utah as well as in many other desert communities.

The question is why all the irrigation water has not been included in the supply. Careful accounting would show we have more supplies than most people realize watering parks, golf courses, and school grounds. UDWRe’s 2011 Water Needs Assessment estimated the amount of agricultural water to be 86,760 AFY in 1990. The WCWCD, on the other hand, only claims about 20,000 AF of agricultural water will convert to residential use by 2060. Even the Local Waters Alternative estimates about 30,000 acre-feet will convert to residential use by 2060.