Guess whether the following statements are true or false. Click to see the answers.
Need for the Pipeline
1. Washington County has plenty of local water sources to meet its future water needs.
Most residents are dependent on a single water source of variable quality and quantity — the Virgin River basin. The LPP introduces a second, more reliable, water source to the area and more than doubles Washington County’s current supply. Having a more diverse and abundant water supply is essential for the rapidly growing population and economy of southern Utah.
2. Washington County is one of the biggest water users in Utah.
Despite being in the hottest and driest part of the state, Washington County has a lower per capita water use than many other counties in Utah. Washington County has aggressively and successfully pursued conservation for many years and was the first Utah county to meet the governor’s statewide water conservation goal of reducing water use 25 percent. A recent audit conducted by a nationally recognized water conservation expert concludes that the Washington County Water Conservancy District’s conservation program is “on par with other notable programs in the western United States and exceeds those of other entities of a similar size and customer base.”
3. Conservation is cheaper and easier than building a pipeline.
Costs of implementing extreme conservation measures are comparable with the cost estimates to build the Lake Powell Pipeline. A comprehensive cost analysis of extreme conservation estimated an investment of more than $1.5 billion by water users. Mandated conservation includes lawn and landscape removal; replacement hardscapes; ordinance enforcement; and buying, and delivering alternative water supplies. Implementing such a program would likely result in adverse socioeconomic and negative environmental consequences and impacts. It also fails to bring in a needed second source of water for Washington County.
Meeting southern Utah’s future water needs requires a comprehensive plan that includes more conservation and reuse, development of local supplies, free market agricultural transfers and building the LPP.
4. Using more water from agriculture would eliminate the need for the LPP.
Much of Washington County’s agricultural water has already been converted to municipal use. The state estimates that approximately 23,000 additional acre feet of water could possibly be available for purchase in the future. This is well short of the 125,000 acre feet of water needed to meet anticipated demands. In addition, converting most of the available agricultural water to municipal use will require an expensive treatment process to bring it to drinking water standards.
Agriculture is part of Utah’s heritage and a major contributor to the state’s economy. For this reason, it is not in the state’s interest to force farmers to give up their water rights and dry up farms. When farmers want to sell their rights, they can be sold and bought on a free market basis.
5. Even if population growth slows, southern Utah still needs the LPP.
Most of southern Utah’s population and economy relies on a sole source of water and a single water delivery system. The LPP will bring a second, reliable water source to the communities; improve resource and delivery system reliability and enhance local storage.
6. Building the LPP will cause uncontrollable growth in southern Utah.
The majority of future residents will be current residents’ children and grandchildren who choose to remain in the area to raise their families. Approximately 70% of Utah’s growth is internal. These residents will require water for economic vitality, jobs and to sustain their quality of life. There is no convenient switch that can be flipped to stop growth. Instead, water providers must plan for and manage current and future growth to ensure a high quality of life for residents.
Paying for the Pipeline
1. There is a plan for how the LPP will be funded.
The 2006 Lake Powell Pipeline Development Act (Act) passed by the legislature specifies the project will be funded by the state of Utah and repaid by the participating water conservancy district. More than a thousand water projects have been built in Utah using a similar financing mechanism—all have been repaid. The Act allows the districts to repay the state of Utah within 50 years from the date of the delivery of developed water, allowing the full costs of the project to be added incrementally as water is used. These terms equitably allow future water users to contribute to the cost of the project.
Water conservancy districts have three primary revenue sources that will be used to repay the state: water rates, impact fees and limited property taxes.
2. Washington County can pay for a project estimated to cost between $1.1 and $1.9 billion.
The Washington County Water Conservancy District has developed a general capital project funding strategy to phase in water rates, impact fees and property tax increases to produce sufficient revenue to repay the state. This strategy is projected to generate an additional $6.12 billion in revenue through 2060 for infrastructure projects, including the LPP.
3. The LPP will cause huge increases in water rates and property taxes in southern Utah.
The Washington County Water Conservancy District’s general capital project funding strategy indicates that the majority of LPP repayment (75%) will come from impact fees – one-time fees collected from those who are developing property that depends on the district to provide water; 15% of funding will come from water rates and 10% from property taxes.
There is not a set fee-per-person cost for the LPP; everyone will pay a proportionate share based on their water use, property value and if they are a new or existing connection on the water system. This approach equitably distributes the project cost on those who will need and use the water.
4. Most water projects are funded by borrowing money.
Most communities borrow money from the state or federal government to finance water infrastructure projects. During the past 70 years, Utah has been involved in the financing of nearly 1,500 water projects. The state has provided more than a $1 billion through its revolving loan program – all loans have been repaid.
5. Other water providers in the U.S. don’t rely on taxes to help fund water projects.
Most western states allow the collection of taxes to fund water projects, including California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Idaho. Collecting taxes for water is common for most water suppliers in the west. Approximately 10% of LPP costs will be funded through property taxes versus 75% from impact fees on new development and 15% from water rates.
6. The LPP is the most cost-effective alternative of a number of studied options.
Other proposals cost more, provide less water and fail to bring a second source of water to the community. Without the LPP, Washington County would need to pursue more expensive options that couldn’t yield the same amount or quality of water. These include:
- Reusing wastewater for residential indoor use
- Investing in expensive and environmentally challenging reverse osmosis treatment.
- Accelerating the purchase of agricultural water rights and drying up farms.
- Mandating conservation that would severely restrict outdoor watering, which would adversely impact the region’s economy, environment, quality of life and tourism.
Together, these efforts would produce less water at a higher cost than the LPP.
Water for the Pipeline
1. The Colorado River is a reliable source for the LPP.
All Colorado River basin states have the right to develop and use their allocated water in accordance with the Colorado River Compact and other agreements that create the Law of the River. Utah and the other Upper Basin states (Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico) are not using all their allocated water. According to the Upper Colorado River Commission, the Upper Basin states have delivered more than 92 million acre feet of water to the Lower Basin states (Nevada, Arizona and California) from 2008 through 2017 – 17 million acre feet more than the Lower Basin’s compact allocation.
2. With climate change, there will not be enough water in the Colorado River to fill the LPP.
In both wet and dry cycles over the past century, the Colorado River has always provided enough water to meet established uses and compact requirements.
Modeling conducted by Bureau of Reclamation in August 2018, taking into account future water uses in the Upper Basin including the LPP, indicates a near 0 percent probability of a declared 1922 Compact shortage for the Upper Basin through the year 2050, presuming hydrology remains similar to what the basin has experienced over the last 100 years. On the other hand, if the future hydrology of the basin is similar to drier, hotter climate change predictions, more closely resembling the last 30 years including historic drought, the risk of a declared 1922 Compact shortage rises to less than 13 percent through the year 2050. Any shortages in the Colorado River system would be shared by the basin states.
3. Utah is building this water project simply to use its Colorado River allocation and keep the water from flowing downstream.
The LPP is being built because Utah needs the water it rightfully owns. It will divert water only when it is lawful to do so. In addition to diversifying its water supply, Utah must have water available to meet future demand. Washington County is projected to grow 229 percent by 2065. Most local water resources are fully developed, necessitating another source. The LPP will more than double the county’s current water supply.
4. Utah has not used all its Colorado River allocation.
Utah is not using all the water it is allocated from the Colorado River. Currently the state uses about 1 million acre feet annually, including evaporation and system loss. Utah’s surplus water supply currently flows downstream. The LPP would use a small fraction (approximately 5%) of Utah’s Colorado River compact allocation, leaving more than 300,000 acre feet available for the future.
5. The LPP will significantly reduce flows in the Colorado River and drop levels in Lake Powell even further.
The LPP would use about 5% of Utah’s Colorado River compact allocation. Even when operating at full capacity, the LPP will deliver only about 0.35% of Lake Powell’s capacity. Potential impacts to Lake Powell, the downstream environment, or other water users from Lake Powell diversions have been studied and found to be minimal.
6. A critical reason the region needs the LPP is to diversify its water supply.
Most of southern Utah relies solely on the Virgin River basin for water, and it is a source of variable quality and quantity. The river is prone to drought – 12 out of the past 20 years have been ones of drought. If water quality or quantity problems arise with that one source, it places communities at great risk. The LPP introduces one of the state’s most reliable water sources, Colorado River water at Lake Powell, helping to ensure uninterrupted water delivery to homes and businesses now and in the future.