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Front Page » May 17, 2005 » Opinion » Familiar messages come from the south
Published 3,424 days ago

Familiar messages come from the south


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate community editor

A couple of very interesting things have been taking place in the world of water lately, and I feel all readers should be aware of them. Carbon County's water troubles, amplified by the drought of the past few years, may seem temporarily over, but drought or not, some things have been happening that will affect the entire state eventually.

The first is a plan by the Southern Nevada Water Authority's proposal to drill wells and pipe water from northern dark, White Pine and Lincoln counties to the Las Vegas area.

I guess sin city's population is outgrowing the water it is allotted from it's own sources and Lake Mead. Why should that matter to us? Why should we be interested?

That's because the plan would create a trans-basin diversion of water or in other words water would be diverted from one drainage area into another. That should sound familiar to local folks who have watched our 70 year fight over the Price River drainage.

The plan would also affect Utahns who live in the Snake Valley in western Utah, because aquifers respect no man made lines of geopolitical importance, and the aquifer that feeds wells that support agriculture and the small towns in the area would be affected by the draw down. Many residents already report that their own wells have had to be drilled deeper and that many springs in the area have dried up during the recent drought. What would happen if Las Vegas started drawing water from that area? Many believe that farming and ranching would totally die off because it would become impossible to operate under such circumstances.

As one rancher who resides in the area said "What will it be, crops or craps?"

Las Vegas, Phoenix and Los Angeles are water starved right now,, despite the fact that all of them are drawing extreme amounts of water from unnatural sources. One of those sources is the Colorado River Basin Drainage, of which little Carbon County is part. Even our own St. George is beginning to eye the water that is in Lake Powell with the thoughts of a pipeline to supply it's immense growth.

Before Hoover Dam was built in the 1930's, many of the places that are now the biggest growth centers in the west either didn't exist or were very small largely because there was no water to supply any kind of large population. It has been said that with the final dam that was put on the river. Glen Canyon Dam, the west had transformed itself, both in terms of water supplies and hydroelectric power, into a powerful political force, rather than a dried up desert with nothing to offer.

With these demands for water, whether it be taken from holes drilled in the ground or from a natural drainage which is then diverted to areas where it doesn't naturally flow, we can be sure the political fights will only intensify.

It has to make one wonder why suddenly the state of Utah has taken such an interest in shares of water that are not being "beneficially" used? While almost everyone believes that the water in many drainages on the Colorado Plateau have been over appropriated, everyone who holds shares that they have not been using for years in the area are also sweating it. Municipalities and water districts that have a larger amount of water shares than they use each year are trying desperately to find people to lease them too so they can show that the shares are being exercised.

For years the state seemed to "look the other way" when it came to the practice of holding shares beyond use, but suddenly there is great interest in this.

So why is that important to us? It's because the state of Utah actually owns all the water that is housed in reservoirs, is pumped from wells and even that which falls from the sky and lands within it's boundaries, despite the fact it might end up on your property in your dogs water dish. They have power over it once it is on the ground, but they also have agreements called compacts with various other states concerning water that should naturally flow out of the state via a drainage.

At one time I know there were people that were worried about water from Carbon's drainage somehow being diverted to the Wasatch Front to fuel it's tremendous growth. But just maybe the real problem won't come from the northern part of the state, but in the form of a pipe sending water from Lake Powell to Utah's Dixie.

It's hard to tell, but I know this. All rural places are in a similar boat that floats on water from snow pack, rain and wells.

And somebody else always wants that water.


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May 17, 2005
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