New population projections released by Governor Gary Herbert’s office are showing slower growth than expected in Utah’s Washington County. The new growth projections for Washington County could mean a stop to planning for the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline.
“It effectively means that the Lake Powell Pipeline is totally obsolete and unnecessary, and will save the tax payers billions of dollars over the long run for not building this project,” said Zachary Frankel, Utah Rivers Council Executive Director.
He says the new data is proof that Washington County does not need the pipeline to meet its future water needs. The Utah Governors Office of Planning and Budget (GOPB) recently released preliminary projections that show a much slower population growth for Washington County than previously reported. Its last report showed the county reaching approximately 800,000 people by the year 2050, it now shows just half that. Frankel says claims that Washington County is nearing a water crisis are just not true.
“The claims that they were running out of water were based on pre real-estate crash population growth. If you factor in the 2008 downturn that we are still living through, it is clear Washington County has no water supply issues what-so-ever, because they don’t even come close to running out of water for the next four decades.”
Frankel says the solution to any potential water supply issues in the future is better conservation practices. The proposed project includes 139 miles of pipeline from Lake Powell to Sand Hollow Reservoir in Washington County. Once built, the pipeline is expected to deliver up to 23 billion gallons of water annually from the Colorado River to Washington County. Estimates put the cost of the project at more than a billion dollars, paid for through state sales taxes. A lead proponent for the Lake Powell Pipeline Project is Washington County Water Conservancy District Associate General Manager Corey Cram.
“From our perspective we believe that those projections are wrong, and that they are not accurately captioning the conditions in Washington County.”
Cram says the projections are only preliminary, and that the pipeline is critical to the County’s economic future.
“Water is certainly the grease that lubricates our economy, if you look at the water use in our area, over half of our water goes to commercial enterprises. Hotels and restaurants and we have a huge number of visitors passing through, tourists and students. It’s a very important part of our economy and water is just critical for that.”
Cram says increasing Washington County’s water supply is still a top priority and says the Water Conservancy District will continue to pursue the development of the pipeline to meet their future needs. The Governor’s office will release its final population projections in the fall.