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Proposed Lake Powell Pipeline proves polarizing

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Posted at 7:51 PM, Jun 05, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-05 21:51:09-04

ST. GEORGE – Pumping water from Lake Powell to St. George, that’s what a proposed pipeline would do.

This week economists said it’s a solution to meet the demands of a growing area, but critics argue it may not be the right solution.

The Lake Powell Pipeline would stretch 139 miles across southwestern Utah and put the water into Sand Hollow Reservoir, just east of Hurricane. The proposed line is still in the early stages of development, but water district managers said one thing is clear: Projected growth will require an additional water supply.

“We’re still the third fastest growing county in the state of Utah,” said Washington County Water Conservancy District General Manager Ronald Thompson.  “The largest county that has that kind of growth rate by far.”

State projections anticipate Washington County’s population will near 600,000 within the next 50 years. Thompson said that’s why they’re looking at the Lake Powell Pipeline.

Once in operation, it would pump an extra 86,000 acre feet of water into southwestern Utah. Current population demands are just over 45,000 acre feet.

“That water supply will support another nearly 100,000 homes in the two counties,” Thompson said. “It will support 100,000 new jobs.”

Thompson said having a diverse supply of water is one of the major keys to keeping up with that growth. Critics said the counties should have a greater emphasis on making the most of what we have.

“The reality is southern Utah needs to conserve water,” said Christi Wedig, director of the group Citizens for Dixie’s Future. “The rest of western United States already uses less water than Washington County. They are the west’s most wasteful water users.”

One of the biggest concerns is cost, and how much residents will end up paying for the project. Thompson said a project like the pipeline would end up paying for itself with the growth that comes along with it.  The pipeline has an estimated $1 billion price tag, but exact numbers won’t be known until developers are through the design process.

There are still a number of studies and analysis that need to be done before the project can go forward. Construction of the pipeline wouldn’t begin until 2015. More information can be found on the Washington County Water Conservancy District’s website

Information on the arguments against the project can be found on the Citizens for Dixie’s Future website