OPINION — If you pay attention to the water bill sent to you each month by your favorite municipal government, it’s easy to see where things are going wrong. Water customers in Southern Utah pay for water by units of thousands of gallons. I’m not talking about the separate connection that you might have for irrigation purposes and for which you get a separate invoice ($12 here in Hurricane).
Nope, the subject here is the water you drink and sprinkle on the peonies, use to prepare foods and, of course, the gallons that you wash down the drain when you flush a toilet, take a shower or wash your clothes and dishes.
The Washington County Water Conservatory District (WCWCD) is a governing body that is self-appointed to govern everything you could possibly imagine when it comes to the use of water. The last time I looked, it was headed up by Ron Thompson who receives a pretty hefty salary to control your use of this valuable commodity.
The WCWCD has told us in the past that folks in this area use about 317 gallons per day per person. That amount varies from one brochure or newsletter to the next, but most of the published figures fail to spell out just how the water is used. Instead, the writers submit figures of the estimated water available by the estimated total number of users in Southern Utah.
How does that figure work for you? That seems like a lot. If you, your wife and three kids each uses 317 gallons per day, you come up with 5 times 317 gallons times 30 days if you want to limit this calculation to one month’s usage. That’s 47,550 gallons per month for this “typical” family.
We live in Hurricane. If we actually used 47,500 gallons, we’d get billed for:
- Base charge (whatever that is) $15.50
- $0.87 per 1,000 for the first 5,000 gallons $4.35
- $0.92 per 1,000 for the next 5,000 gallons $5.43
- $2.06 per 1,000 for the next 10,000 gallons $20.60
- $2.21 per 1,000 for the next 10,000 gallons $22.10
- $2.37 per 1,000 for the next 10,000 gallons $23.70
- $2.60 per 1,000 for the next 8,000 gallons $20.80
- Total $112.48
Let’s not forget, however that the WCWCD tacks on another $1.85 for whatever imaginary service they are providing. That makes a grand total of $114.33. Since water is just one item on my monthly utility charge from Hurricane, you can see where this is going. I’d probably have to get someone to revive me if I ever got such a bill. Nobody I know gets a bill like that, so we have to assume that we are getting a lot of free water or we’re not using a per capita average of 317 gallons or that the WCWCD is telling us a great big lie.
So where is all this water going? Well, one place is golf courses. In case you didn’t know, a round of golf requires about 2,500 gallons of water to keep up the greens. Next time you drive by a course — and there are several — multiply the number of players by that figure and you’ll see where a ton of water is being used — or going to waste, depending on your opinion.
On top of that, there are numerous public facilities that require almost daily sprinkling or irrigation to keep the grass green. And there is a public swimming pool that, depending on a number of different conditions, requires make-up water. Add to that the numerous splash pads in and around your neighborhood and you have a whole bunch of water uses. Hardly a week goes by when someone appears before the City Council with a request to use a lot of water for boating, skiing and general splish-splashing.
Ron Thompson and the WCWCD have published numerous flyers and brochures that merely state the same old figures — Harry and Harriet Homeowner use 317 gallons per day. That figure is blatantly false. But the figures for total usage in the area hardly seems fair because ultimately someone has to pay for all the water that is being used — no matter whose calculator you use.
Enter the Lake Powell Pipeline. Ron and his buddies have spent more than $25 million on expensive “studies” to justify a pipeline from Arizona to St. George. It doesn’t matter what you might think of the project because Ron hasn’t (and probably won’t) ask for your opinion.
Ron and associates have already decided that the pipeline is going in whether or not you like the idea and regardless of the cost. To fortify that position, he spearheaded the formation of CIRPAC — supposedly a cross-section of citizens, officials and other interested parties in deciding how our water ought to be managed.
Let’s talk about the Colorado River Compact for a minute. The Compact was written (in 1922!) and agreed to by the seven western states of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, California and Wyoming. The idea was that each entity would be entitled to so much water per year from the Colorado River. Well, it seems that Las Vegas uses a lot more than Nevada is entitled to, Lake Mead is way below its normal depth, and the addition of Lake Powell to keep Lake Mead up and running hasn’t worked out.
If you happen to live in Mexico, you are not receiving any water from the Colorado. It is nearly non-existent by the time it reaches there. If you examine a satellite view of this area, several things become clear, but they also create a whole shebang of questions about this subject. Go ahead — get your map and take a look as I move along.
The Colorado River originates in Colorado, but it receives a significant amount of water from the Green River that originates in Wyoming, fills up the Flaming Gorge Reservoir that sits on the state lines of Utah and Wyoming, then joins the Colorado south of Moab. From there, it fills Lake Powell, then proceeds to its next stop, Lake Mead. Two provinces in northern Mexico are the final recipients, but as previously noted, there is no water in the river by the time it gets there.
Now, then, who is entitled to what? The various states have used up their allotments or they haven’t, depending on your viewpoint. Utah may or may not have some water coming, but at what price? A $2 billion pipeline that may not have enough water to function?
Let me sum up for a moment here. The water gurus want to build a very complicated and expensive pipeline to send water from Lake Powell to the St. George area to support the growth that various experts don’t agree will occur in the next 20 years. They will have to build pumping stations along the way to pump the water to the uphill areas, but when the water heads for a downhill area, we’ll also have to build a holding reservoir and a generating station that will supply power to run the pumping station. Got that so far?
Assuming that the drought in this region finally comes to an end, Lake Powell may have enough water in it to meet the demand, but there is a good chance that it won’t be enough. There is also the possibility that the anticipated growth won’t occur and we end up buying oats for a dead horse. There is also the very real likelihood that other states may decide that Utah isn’t entitled to more water and that perhaps the Compact apportionment ought to be revised. Business developers in Las Vegas would surely have more than a passing interest in the subject.
There are other proposals on the table as well, including one pipeline going from Flaming Gorge to northern Colorado. Other pipelines will certainly come to the planning table as each geographical area decides it needs more water.
Then, of course, we have to find a way to pay for these projects. Promoters say that impact fees will take care of it. That’s wishful thinking, at best, and it is more likely that water users in Southern Utah will end up footing the bill and will find their water rates increasing to the point where the $114.33 per month charge noted above will seem like “chump change.”
I have suggested in the past that perhaps we ought to consider hauling ice from that big glacier in Montana down to the Green River, but the idea failed to catch on. To me, it seemed just as feasible as the LPP.
The news today reports that Washington City has instituted an increase in their water rates. Tomorrow will surely see similar increases in other communities. Nowhere that I can find are recommendations from WCWCD, CIRPAC or my own village board for ways to conserve water, even though that would be much more effective than building pipelines all over the place.
In case you missed it, all of Utah’s elected congressional officials recently signed and sent a letter to President Trump, urging him to support a move to promote this insidious project. I hope that you remember all of them when the next election rolls around. As for me, I sent a personal letter to the President, urging him to disassociate himself from the Lake Powell Pipeline. I did not get a reply.
Written by DONALD L. TRIPTOW, Hurricane
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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.