In the 2006 Lake Powell Pipeline Development Act, the Board of Water Resources was tasked to “construct the project as funded by the Legislature.” The recent release of the draft environmental impact statement is a milestone we celebrate. We appreciate the work done by our federal, state and local partners to move this needed water project forward.
Over the years, the board has worked on more than 1,485 water projects throughout the state. We work closely with regional and local water providers to ensure they have the water resources needed to meet future demands in one of the nation’s fastest-growing states.
The Colorado River is a reliable water source in the western United States that serves over 40 million people. Utah has a legal right to use a portion of this water, which we have yet to fully develop. The state is currently using approximately 70% of its annual reliable supply. Further development of this resource in Utah does not jeopardize other Colorado River basin state allocations.
The Lake Powell Pipeline allows us to use 6% of Utah’s annual reliable supply of Colorado River water in the state’s fastest-growing and one of the driest regions — Washington County. This county is projected to grow more than 200% by 2065. Additional water resources are needed to serve this growth. In addition, Washington County is one of the few areas of our state that has a major population center dependent on one water source — the Virgin River. Diversifying and adding reliability to the county’s water resources are primary purposes of the Lake Powell Pipeline.
We’d like to recognize Washington County’s water conservation accomplishments. They were one of the first to adopt a water conservation plan, the first county in the state to meet the governor’s previous statewide water conservation goal to reduce use at least 25% by 2025, and established a desert demonstration garden to provide conservation education to the public. Conservation accompanied with the Lake Powell Pipeline will provide water resources needed to serve current and future Utah residents.
The Lake Powell Pipeline is estimated to cost between $1.1 billion and $1.9 billion (2020 dollars). While this is a significant state investment, the project is economically feasible and Washington County can generate sufficient revenues to repay costs according to two independent studies: the draft EIS and 2019 audit completed by the Utah Office of the Legislative Auditor General.
As a state, we have always planned in advance for essential resources for future populations; that responsibility now falls on us for the Lake Powell Pipeline. We take this responsibility seriously as Utah citizens and members of the Board of Water Resources, which is why we support the Lake Powell Pipeline.
We invite you to study the project and participate in the public comment period underway now through Sept. 8. Project information is available online at LPPUtah.org.
Blaine Ipson is the chair of the Utah Board of Water Resources.