Washington County is considering groundwater rights, but it’s unclear if the water is really there
the Washington County Water Conservation District needs more water for its growing population. They hope to secure nearly 13,000 acre-feet of what they say is unallocated water.
The district submitted a request to the state in March for water rights and plans to drill 18 wells. The wells would be along the Hurricane Fault, which stretches from the north end of the county, partly along I-15, to the Utah-Arizona border. Two geological surveys previously commissioned by the district suggest the water could be deep underground.
More research still needs to be done, said general manager Zach Renstrom. That’s why they ask for the rights and drill the wells, to see if the water is really there.
“It’s going to be a long process,” he said. “A lot of people are going to look at it because there’s a big hurdle we have to overcome. But filing this water rights application is kind of the first trigger to get things done.
Residents near proposed wells oppose the move as did the mayors of New Harmony and Kanarraville. They worry about the impact this could have on their existing water rights. In the district’s application, the state engineer said groundwater in the area had already been “fully appropriated.”
“We strongly believe that if you don’t have water, you don’t develop the land,” said Doneva Hecker, City Clerk of New Harmony. “And the mentality, it seems Washington County has for the most part, is that they want to build as much as they can and make as much money as possible. And it’s very frustrating. »
The district continued the controversy Lake Powell Pipeline for years and now hoped it would contribute to population growth. In 2020, neighboring states raised legal objections to the project and is on hold while other environmental analyzes are carried out.
Renstrom said the delay is part of the reason they are exploring other options.
“I’m looking for everything,” he said. “Everything is on the table right now because we have to do it, we have no choice.”
Conserve Southwest Utah advisor Lisa Rutherford said there are too many unknowns when it comes to these aquifers. She also filed a protest against the district’s request.
Rutherford said the county has not exhausted its efforts to conserve the water it already has. She said the conservation orders proposed by the district and passed throughout the departmentneed more bite when it comes to applying and regulating lawns.
“To say that we must go further [water] when we’re not even doing what really needs to be done is not a good excuse,” she said.
The water rights application is now forwarded to the Utah State Engineer for review.