Lake Powell Pipeline
The Lake Powell Pipeline is a proposed project by the Washington and Kane County Water Conservation Districts that is now sponsored by Utah’s Board of Water Resources to get 86,249 acre-feet of water to Southeastern Utah Communities.
The 139 mile pipeline would run from Lake Powell to Sand Hollow Reservoir near St. George. The route is pictured below, but basically follows highway 89 except a divergence to skirt the Kaibab-Paiute Indian Reservation. Water would be pumped 50 miles uphill to a high point within the area of former Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. After that, the water would flow down hill 90 miles through a series of six hydroelectric turbines. The power generated would partially offset the power needed for pumping. Power transmission lines are a part of the proposal.
The project is expected to cost conservatively between $1.4 billion and 1.8 billion. The majority would have to be repaid by local water users of Kane and Washington County, which seems unfeasible based on an economic analysis by the University of Utah.
St. George residents use 294 gallons of water per person per day, roughly twice what people in Phoenix, Albuquerque, and Denver use. Conservation could play a major role in future growth instead of the pipeline.
Climate change is expected to have a negative impact on stream flows in the Colorado River Basin. This is well accepted in the scientific community. How much of a decrease is more uncertain, but if we look at a temperature increase alone (not counting probable precipitation decreases) we can expect to see a 10%-30% decrease in river flows at Lee’s Ferry by mid century. We all know that there are more “paper” rights in the river than actually exist, future shortages and more development will make the situation even worse. The Lake Powell Pipeline has 1957 water rights that are subordinate to the Central Utah Project and to Uintah and Duchesne County Water Conservation Districts (where potential oil shale, tar sands mining, and fracking operations compete with water use). In all likelihood, the Lake Powell Pipeline will not be able to deliver the full 86,000 acre feet per year to Southwestern Utah, making it a colossal waste of tax payer money and a huge burden on the water users of that district.
Also, Utah’s share of water from the Colorado River also includes water that the tribes of Utah are entitled to, but haven’t received. Water rights for the tribes in Utah, most of which have been not been quantified thus far, are based on the date the reservations were created. The State of Utah and Bureau of Reclamation have not helped fulfill these obligations to any of the tribes of Utah. The Lake Powell Pipeline should not be given State financing and priority over potential tribal water projects.
We need to participate in the public process to stop this pipeline from happening.
A comment window is open until 60 days after the decision from FERC on who has jurisdiction over the pipeline. The comment period is on the hydropower license, followed by a 45-day FERC response period. Then the Environmental Impact Study (EIS) begins. Many steps remain, with at least one more public comment period. After detail design, bidding, and bonding of the debt, if our leaders continue their support, construction would start.
There will be another round of public comments after the Draft Environmental Impact Statement comes out on August 9th, 2019. Comments will be due October 8th, 2019.
Comment to FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) by going to:
Higher Resolution Map of the Lake Powell Pipeline Route
Really cool interactive exploration of drought on the Colorado River
Check out this archive of information about the pipeline and water rights from Living Rivers.
Check out Conserve SW Utah for more information
Check out this scientific article about implications of climate change on the Colorado River Basin
Great Opinion piece explaining the Colorado River by William deBuys “Adding up the Water Deficit“