Snowpack Numbers Re-Spark Debate Over Pipeline

Apr 14, 2014

Continued drought in southern Utah has once again sparked a debate over the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline.

The Virgin River Basin is estimated to be at just 45 percent of normal snowpack for the year.

Current numbers show the statewide snowpack to be 105 percent of normal in the northern portion of the state and 80 percent in the south, with the Virgin River Basin totaling just 45 percent of normal.

The proposed pipeline would carry water from Lake Powell to the more populated southwestern corner of the state via a 140 mile pipeline. The cost of the pipeline is estimated at over $1 billion. It would essentially double the water available to the region.

LeAnn Skrzynski from Citizens for Dixie’s Future, a group opposed to the pipeline, said greater conservation efforts are needed, not more water.

“We need to get our house in order before we go to the Colorado River and have all of those impacts of a pipeline that’s being put in the ground,” Skrzynski said. “It’s going 140 miles and taking lots of energy to get it all the way uphill and across the watershed into St. George, when we can handle it with the resources we already have.”

She added the unreliable Colorado River is not worth the financial burden residents of southern Utah would feel from the new project.

However, Todd Adams from the Utah Division of Water Resources said models show changing precipitation patterns for the state may mean new development is needed in addition to larger conservation efforts.

“What it does is it helps diversify St. George water supply so they have a varied but stable water supply,” Adams said.

Both Skrzynski and Adams agree that better city planning and mindful use of water in industry and agriculture will be needed in coming years.

Adams said the Utah Division of Water Resources is currently looking at a timeline for when a pipeline would be needed.

“We look at current water supplies, current projected demands and overlay them with conservation strategies and efficiency strategies to look on the time frame and we are working though those right now,” Adams said.

Water restrictions will most likely be in place for much of the state this summer, no matter when water officials decide the pipeline would be needed.