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While the Great Basin Water Network's (GBWN) overriding concern is with a proposed pipeline project in Nevada, the GBWN was nevertheless formed to protect the water resources of the Great Basin. GBWN's goal is to promote effective water conservation programs including economic incentive for water smart-practices and implementation of simple, inexpensive conservation measures as opposed to multi-million projects that would burden taxpayers. In that regard, this page presents information about a major pipeline project in southern Utah that would extract water from the Colorado River system.


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Utah's Proposed Lake Powell Pipeline Project
Official Background Statement — [Taken from the Utah Division of Water Resources]

The [Utah] Board of Water Resources, under the Lake Powell Pipeline Development Act passed by the Utah State Legislature in 2006, is authorized to build the Lake Powell Pipeline to meet the water demands of southwestern Utah. The legislation authorizes a pipeline to take water from Lake Powell, and transport it to Washington and Kane counties.

The project consists of approximately 139 miles buried of 69-inch pipe from Lake Powell to Sand Hollow Reservoir near St. George. It also includes pumping facilities near Glen Canyon Dam with booster pumping stations along the pipeline alignment to provide the approximately 2,000 foot lift needed to carry the water over the high point in the pipeline. Hydroelectric generation facilities will be included to utilize the roughly 2,900 foot drop between the high point and the end of the pipeline. Power sales will be used to help offset pumping costs.

At full development the pipeline is expected to annually deliver up to 82,000 acre-feet (26.7 billion gallons) to Washington County Water Conservancy District, 4,000 acre-feet (1.30 billion gallons) to Kane County Water Conservancy District. The water diverted into the pipeline will be a portion of Utah’s Upper Colorado River Compact allocation, and will consist of water rights to be held or acquired by the two water districts and the Board of Water Resources. The state [of Utah] will build the project and the districts will repay the costs through water sales.

Related Information

    Glen Canyon Institute
  • In 1963, the diversion tunnels of Glen Canyon Dam closed causing the waters of the Colorado River to back up 186 miles through Glen Canyon to form Lake Powell. Built for political purposes, the dam was originally meant to provide a sustainable water supply to the arid Southwest, but has since undermined that very objective and has caused massive collateral damage across the Colorado River Basin

  Recent Press Stories

September 16, 2016 — Utah water management plan goes to task force, but public is left in the dark (with audio) A draft plan for managing Utah's water may draw controversy not only for its recommendations — such as its call to develop the Lake Powell Pipeline and the Bear River Project — but also because it's unclear whether officials will release it to the public. The preliminary document, which was distributed to members of the state's Water Strategy Advisory Team during a Tuesday meeting, compiles comments from multiple sources, including the 38-person committee that was appointed by Gov. Gary Herbert. The Salt Lake Tribune acquired the document after the meeting — Sltrib.com

September 13, 2016 — Water Priorities: Draft Plan Heads For Completion Amid Criticism — A state task force is polishing its report to Gov. Gary Herbert on preparing for Utah’s future water needs. Some environmentalists are criticizing the group for snubbing public input. The work of the 38 people on the Governor’s Water Strategy Task Force is nearing an end, and members met to get their first look Tuesday at a report they’re hoping to finalize by the year’s end — kuer.org

May 26, 2016 — Editorial: Pay for existing water systems before Lake Powell pipedream — People in charge of securing Utah's future continue to flirt with the idea of building a $2 billion-plus pipeline to connect a lake that may not be there then with people who aren't here yet. Others with a more global view are seriously considering draining Lake Powell, supposedly the saving source of water for far-away St. George via that proposed pipeline, in order to replenish the larger Lake Mead, which serves the people and agriculture of the already populous — and politically powerful — California — Sltrib.com

May 18, 2016 — [Jack Worlton, In My Opinion] The [Lake Powell] pipeline: Getting the numbers right — am writing this guest editorial to correct some problematic numbers that are often encountered in the discussions about the Lake Powell Pipeline proposal. The first problematic number concerns the question of how many people the local waters in Washington County can support — thespectrum.com

May 12, 2016 — State Panel Orders Lake Powell Pipeline Repayment Plans Released — A state panel ruled Thursday that Utah citizens have a right to know more about how they might be expected to pay for the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline — kuer.org

April 29, 2016 — Lake Powell Pipeline proposal goes to federal review — Just as some of the drought-starved states downstream are cutting back, officials in Utah say they plan to file on Monday an official proposal to dip into their rights to the Colorado River via the Lake Powell Pipeline — Thespectrum.com

March 16, 2016 — 2016 Utah Water Users Workshop reveals some new tactics — Every year, the Utah Water Users hold their workshop in St. George, and this year is no different. Sunny weather brings crowds to the area to talk water and play golf. The first day of the two-day Utah Water Users Workshop (UWUW) in St. George at the Dixie Center revealed some new tactics by some old players — The Sepctrum

February 23, 2016 — In Utah, a massive water project is gaining ground — St. George is a small, humming, desert city tucked into the southwestern corner of Utah, surrounded by red rocks. Most of its 148,000 people are retirees from the Wasatch front, attracted to its year-round pleasant climate and plentiful golf courses. But with population forecasts predicting nearly half a million St. George residents by 2060, the Washington County Water Conservancy District, which supplies the city’s water, is worried about the future — hcn.org

February 23, 2016 — Colorado, Wyoming Plan For River Water Share — The Colorado River is arguably the most allocated river in the world. Drought and climate change have left less water to go around, and that has every state that relies on the river scrambling — NPR.org

A United States Bureau of Reclamation boat speeds along at Lake Mead on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. As a long-term drought continues, a white February 17, 2016 — Here's what El Nino's storms meant for Lake Mead's water levels — Even one of the strongest El Ninos on record can't seem to dent the drought on the Colorado River. The Pacific Ocean climate pattern that typically soaks the Southwest has so far only managed to produce an average year on the river that supplies 90 percent of the Las Vegas Valley's water supply. The latest federal projections released Friday call for the Colorado to carry about 94 percent of its average flow during the all-important April-July time frame, when snowmelt in the western Rockies collects in Lake Powell on the Utah-Arizona border — Las Vegas Review Journal [Mobil Link]

February 15, 2016 — Proposal to divert funds to help fund Lake Powell pipeline — SALT LAKE CITY (AP) A proposal in the Utah Legislature would greenlight the transfer of nearly $500 million dollars from transportation projects to water projects in a move that could funnel money to the controversial Lake Powell pipeline. The Utah Senate approved the measure on Friday on a 19-10 vote — kutv.comRelated Story

February 09, 2016 — Former Lake Powell Pipeline Leader Says Project Not Needed
More Coverage — Lake Powell Pipeline open house stirs up more unanswered questions

January 28, 2016 — Lawmakers, Utahns wary of Lake Powell Pipeline’s unknown cost — Utahns still aren't sure whether they support the construction of the Lake Powell Pipeline, but the state senate is already on track to hear a bill that could help fund it. After a Wednesday afternoon hearing that attracted an overflow crowd, the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Standing Committee voted 5-2 to support SB80, which would create a water infrastructure fund and divert a 1/16-cent sales tax to it — Salt Lake Tribune

December 2015 — The Source: Lifeline in a Desert - The Colorado River in Three Stories — The Colorado River flows for over 1400 miles through four U.S. states, though it drains seven. It’s sometimes called the American Nile because nearly every drop of it is used by the civilization of the American West. Over 90% of the river is diverted and consumed by nearly 40 million people -- not all of whom live in its watershed. It’s a lifeline in a desert -- something to fight over. But when it gets squeezed through the tight canyons it has carved for itself it creates dramatic places for adventure. And it sure is pretty — upr.org

December 14, 2015 — Governor’s Budget Recommendations Undermine Lake Powell Pipeline — St George- Backers of the Lake Powell Pipeline (Pipeline) received a setback when Governor Gary Herbert released his 2016 Budget Recommendations on water. His recommendations lend support from the state’s highest office to advocates for fiscal responsibility and water conservation — Citizens For Dixie's Future

(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) December 12, 2015 — Massive document provides clues to Utah’s Lake Powell Pipeline as guv, others question need — The recently released draft proposal for the Lake Powell Pipeline offers the most in-depth analysis of the project to date, but it may raise more questions than it answers. And that's what state officials say it is supposed to do, with the document — more than 1,300 pages long, not counting several hundred pages of supplementary material — now up for public review and comment — Salt Lake Tribune
[ Print PDF]

December 10, 2015 — Gov. Herbert’s New Budget: Education Before Water Development —Governor Herbert has thrown a wrench into water salesmen’s plans to hijack education funding for water development in the 2016 Legislature. The Governor’s new budget for 2016 proposes to increase funding for education and bring sanity to the way Utah manages water — UtahRivers.org

December 09, 2015 — Water Realities — There are some areas in which California's example is not always the best to follow—but conservation isn't one. Water districts there have to meet conservation targets or risk fines—and on the whole, the Golden State has voluntarily cut back water consumption by up to 31 percent since 2013, according to the Los Angeles Times. But here in Utah, all eyes are on a $1 billion Lake Powell Pipeline project — CityWeekly.net

December 03, 2015 —COLORADO RIVER: Utah advances hot-button proposal for Lake Powell pipeline — E&E

November 30, 2015 — Editorial: Lake Powell Pipeline must have realistic financing plan in place — It should not require a platoon of university economists, active and emeritus, to raise such an obvious point. But before the state of Utah floats maybe $1.8 billion in taxpayer-backed bonds to build the long-planned Lake Powell Pipeline, somebody had better have a pretty solid idea of how — and by whom — that debt will be repaid — Salt Lake Tribune [Related story — The Lake Powell Pipeline, Part III: An analysis of the proponents’ arguments]

November 28, 2015 — Op-ed: If Lake Powell pipeline is built, will Colorado River provide? — As the Utah Legislature gears up for the 2016 session, funding for a mammoth government project hangs over the heads of Utah taxpayers. The Lake Powell Pipeline project, the largest new diversion of the Colorado River estimated to cost anywhere from $2 billion to $3 billion, would pump water 2,000 feet uphill, over 140 miles of Southern Utah desert to provide additional water to Washington County, which has one of the worst records of water waste in the West — Salt Lake Tribune

November 24, 2015 — Letter: Lake Powell Pipeline a big gamble — sltrib.com
[Related Information] The Lake Powell Pipeline, An analysis of the proponents’ arguments — suindependent.com

October 26, 2015 — University economists challenge Lake Powell Pipeline payback proposal — f Washington and Kane counties were to actually borrow the estimated $1.4 to $1.8 billion it will take to build the Lake Powell Pipeline, paying it back would become so expensive for local water users that there wouldn't even be any demand for the water, according a group of economists requesting more analysis of the proposed project — theSpectrum.com

May 08, 2015 — [Editorial] Utah lacks good numbers on water needs — For years, conservation groups and good government activists have questioned the numbers used by the Utah Division of Natural Resources and others to project the need for some $33 billion in environmentally disruptive projects to meet the water demands of a rapidly growing state population — Sltrib.com

May 05, 2015 — [Utah] Audit reveals flawed projections on Utah's water needs — SALT LAKE CITY — A legislative audit released Tuesday concludes state water managers have no real idea how much water is being used across Utah so the projection that developed supplies will be exhausted by 2040 is not reliable — DesertNews.com [Related Story, HCN]

May 04, 2015 — Water Pipeline Triggers Debate About Utah's Future — In a parched corner of the nation's second driest state, the Virgin River delivers life-giving water to wildlife, farms and increasing numbers of people. Ron Thompson sees a future when four times as many people could be living here in St. George, and they’ll need more water than the Virgin can provide. That’s why he wants the Lake Powell Pipeline — Kuer.org

Steve Erickson April 14, 2015 — Salt Lake City issues water-shortage advisory — Salt Lake City took the first official step Monday to notify its residents of possible water shortages this summer. Mayor Ralph Becker issued a "stage one advisory," the first of five steps in the city's contingency plan for dealing with drought . . . Steve Erickson, the Utah Audubon Council's legislative advocate, called the city's advisory "an appropriate move to get people's attention. It's been a grim winter. We're likely to see this get worse so people need to start thinking about how they can conserve water — not just in Salt Lake City but around the state — Salt Lake Tribune

March 03, 2015 — Editorial: Utah’s water plan needs to account for climate change — Despite the growing research that less rain and snow will fall here in the coming decades, the people planning Utah's water future have not adjusted their models. A recent study from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies has offered a stark prediction: If the current rates of human-generated emissions continues, there is an 80 percent chance of a 30- to 35-year megadrought in the American southwest. "We will still have natural variability, but happening with a much drier baseline," the study's lead author said. This comes on top of various other predictions that climate change will make Utah a hotter, drier place — Sltrib.com

February 28, 2015 — Growing Utah town wants even more water via pipeline — ST. GEORGE, Utah – This corner of the Mojave Desert that locals call "Color Country" is a fast-growing little retirement haven with a water problem. With an application now before federal regulators, state and county officials hope to assure continued growth via a 140-mile pipeline from the Colorado River at Lake Powell — Azcentral.com

Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune February 22, 2015 — Will Utah be ready for a drier, hotter climate?— The specter of drought hanging over the Southwest is already pretty dire, with forests drying out into beetle-killed tinderboxes and reservoir levels plunging. But the current dry spell may barely register in comparison with what has happened in the distant past and could happen in the near future, according to research released this month. And we may have ourselves to blame — sltrib.com

December 13, 2014 — The water question: Tapping into one of Utah's biggest challenges — SALT LAKE CITY — As the snow this weekend finally begins to fall in the mountains and Utah hopes for a banner snowpack this year, water managers know one season will not douse the challenges the state faces when it comes to water. Utah is wrestling with a multibillion-dollar problem with solutions that are rarely appealing — pipeline construction, higher water rates or restrictions on watering — but they are priorities that may emerge as the state's leaders begin to grapple with the enormity of the challenge ahead — DesertNews.com
[More Coverage — The water question: The staggering problem of determining water rights — DesertNews.com]
 

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