The serious drought gripping Utah and much of the West is not a surprise to water planners. Washington County's water infrastructure system was planned and built to work reliably especially during drought. Five reservoirs, Sand Hollow, Quail Creek, Gunlock, Kolob and Ivins can store more than 100,000 acre-feet (nearly 33 billion gallons) of water close to the communities using the water.
The intentional planning and development of this water infrastructure enables southern Utah cities to supply water in these driest of times. Storage reservoirs create a savings account and are a critical part of our regional water strategy. Like banking money during times of abundance, water is stored when it’s available and then released where and when it’s needed.
The Virgin River is the only water source for Washington County’s major population centers. Following the driest year on record, 2021 is depleting flows in the Virgin with parched soils and hot temperatures. The Virgin River is flowing at record low levels this year.
This small desert tributary is even more susceptible to drought and climate change than the much larger Colorado River. The Virgin River has a drainage area of 12,250 square miles compared to the Colorado River’s nearly 250,000 square miles.
The reliability of the water supply increases by having multiple drainage areas contributing flows to the river. Despite many cycles in drought and recovery, the Colorado River is one of the most reliable water sources in the West.
The planned Lake Powell Pipeline will allow Washington County to deliver a portion of Utah’s available Colorado River water to Sand Hollow. The LPP is the next extension of our water system. Water transported through the LPP is the only option local communities have to diversify our water supply. Of course, the region must use all the necessary strategies to ensure we have enough water – adding more conservation measures to significantly cut water use, reusing water and tapping our remaining local supplies. But these strategies will not supply enough water to meet the demands of our expanding economy and growing population.
Community Leaders Explain the Need for the LPP
Washington County has produced a series of videos featuring state and local elected officials, community and business leaders explaining the water conditions in the county and the critical need for the Lake Powell Pipeline.
St. George City Manager Adam Lenhard discusses the city’s national growth ranking and the importance of managing water resources wisely. He speaks to the city’s obligation to solve water problems for current and future generations. See video.
Ronald Thompson, Attorney and former General Manager, Washington County Water Conservancy District, discusses the 100-year history of the Colorado River Compact of 1922, describes the water allocation framework for the Upper and Lower Colorado River Basin states, and addresses the engineering and economic feasibility of the Lake Powell Pipeline. See video.
Washington City Council Member Kress Staheli shares why adding a second source of water is critical to sustaining life for current and future residents of Washington County, Utah. He explains the important role the Lake Powell Pipeline will play in supplying water during droughts. See video.