Utah Wants to Build Water Pipeline Amid Historic Shortages

As water supplies around the West dwindle, one Utah county is moving ahead with plans for a new Colorado River pipeline.

2 minute read

September 2, 2021, 10:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Water SUpply

Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock

Amidst historic drought conditions and dramatically low reservoirs across the West, Washington County, Utah wants to forge ahead with a proposed water pipeline, reports Jeremy P. Jacobs. "The proposed Lake Powell Pipeline, a 140-mile straw from one of the country’s largest reservoirs to Washington County in southwestern Utah, has sparked backlash from other states in the Colorado River basin and environmentalists, and now has the Biden administration in a difficult position."

Drought conditions "are particularly acute on the Colorado River, which has suffered through a more-than-20-year megadrought. The river feeds 40 million people and millions of acres of cropland." The pipeline project relies on the Colorado River’s 1922 compact, which "allocated about 23% of the Upper Basin’s water to Utah, and the state uses about 72% of that water. The pipeline would help it tap another 86,000 acre-feet of water before it flows downstream to the lower basin." County officials call the pipeline a "key to [the] long-term water future," but critics argue the affected states can't build their way out of the current crisis. "Washington County’s population of about 200,000 is continuing to grow. But critics note that with its multiple green golf courses, it has higher per-capita water use than many of its western neighbors, including Las Vegas, Denver, Los Angeles, Tucson and Phoenix."

Eric Kuhn, the author and former general manager of the Colorado River District, knows there's  more at stake. "[T]he pipeline is just one move in a complicated game as the basin states begin negotiating new river operations due in 2026."

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