U.S. Water News Online
SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah is going to need millions upon
millions of gallons of water to satisfy the thirst of a growing
population, estimated to explode by more than 3 million residents in
"Today, we have about 1.3 million acre feet of water to meet
municipal and industrial needs," Division of Water Resources director
Larry Anderson said. "If the population grows as projected, we would
need 2.2 million acre feet of water."
On paper that means the state needs to find more than 845,000 acre
feet of water to be prepared for an estimated population of 5.4
million, Anderson told the State Water Development Commission.
State engineers and water resource experts are working with
municipal and water conservancy experts on a plan to find that water,
The plan includes tapping additional groundwater, increasing the
size of water treatment plants, conservation -- Utah residents have
reduced their per capita use from 321 gallons per day to 267 gallons
per day in the last 10 years -- and by converting water presently
designed for agricultural use for municipal and industrial uses.
Most of that agricultural water conversion will come through the
projected loss of about 10 percent of Utah's agricultural land to
municipal uses, Anderson said.
Also on the drawing board are two water development projects: the
Bear River project and the Lake Powell pipeline.
The Bear River project will bring water from the Utah-Idaho border
to Willard Bay for storage and then use by communities in Weber,
Davis and Salt Lake counties. It will likely also require the
construction of a reservoir, although an exact location has not been
determined, Anderson said.
The Lake Powell pipeline will pump water through a 66-inch
pipeline from the lake, through northern Arizona, and then back into
Utah near Hildale for storage in Sand Hollow Reservoir near St.
George. There is a possibility of extending that project to Cedar
The areas make sense, Anderson explained to the committee of
lawmakers and municipal water district and conservancy officials,
because they both have large amounts of unused water and are
relatively close to the population centers -- the Wasatch Front and
Washington County -- that have the most pressing water needs.
Both come with huge price tags, Anderson said.
The Bear River project cost estimates range between $260 million
and $500 million. Lake Powell could cost between $340 million and
"So you see, this water gets to be very expensive," Anderson said.
Both projects will require the purchase of additional water
rights, purchase of land for reservoirs, pipelines and other delivery
systems, as well as inked agreements between various water districts
and state agencies.
A governor's Water Delivery Task Force, originally appointed by
former Gov. Olene Walker, has been studying ways to pay for the
projects and will present its final report in late July, said task
force member Richard Ellis said.
Among the financing methods considered are everything from
straight legislative appropriations, to bonding, increases in local
water access and user fees, as well as raising the cap on the portion
of sales tax already designated for water uses, Ellis said.
Water projects are traditionally the responsibility of local
municipalities and districts, Ellis noted. But the size and scope of
the Bear River and Lake Powell proposals will require the
participation of the state and its financial resources.
"The only way these projects will get done is if the state will
step in and help finance them," Ellis said, adding that it's clear
the local districts are committed to repaying the state for it's
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