Utah’s Washington County pushes Lake Powell Pipeline

Economic models presented by Utah’s Washington County Water Conservancy District and the firm Applied Analysis suggest more urgent need for the Lake Powell Pipeline

Washington County Water Conservancy District’s Community Integrated Resource Planning Advisory Committee (CIRPAC) is advising the state of Utah to commit to planning the Lake Powell Pipeline in the face of increasing populations and growing water demand.

The Lake Powell Pipeline Act, passed in 2006 by the Utah State Legislature, permits the state’s Board of Water Resources to construct a pipeline and pumping facilities to convey water from Lake Powell to Washington County Water Conservancy District, Kane County Water Conservancy District and Central Iron County Water Conservancy District, allowing them to use 100,000 acre-feet of the state’s Colorado River allocation.  70,000 acre-feet will go to Washington County, 10,000 to Kane County and 20,000 to Central Iron County.

The districts will repay the costs of the project through water sales, and new hydroelectric generation facilities will also generate power that may be sold to cover the costs of pumping. In June 2008, the Utah Department of Natural Resources estimated that construction costs alone would total $1.064 billion.

CIRPAC members partnered with the Las Vegas-based firm Applied Analysis to develop a preliminary financing schedule for the pipeline.  The committee found that Washington County’s population will see not the 2.9 percent annual increase projected by state officials but rather a 4.2 percent annual increase. Using this growth estimate, and factoring in the impact of climate change and potential for drought, one modeling scenario suggests that construction on the pipeline should start in 2018.

Still, the pipeline remains controversial. Environmental impact studies are ongoing, and advocacy groups like Citizens for Dixie believe that the planning process is accruing costs for Washington County residents without any secure benefits.

Written by Stratecon Staff