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Another Water Grab by Utah in the West Desert

August 01, 2020
by John Weisheit

The groundwater reserves in Wah Wah Valley and Pine Valley of the West Desert in Utah are at extreme risk:  damage to a sole-source aquifer and critical wildlife habitat. And, for humans, water curtailments, economic hardship and eventual community abandonment.

For more information, please visit the website of Great Basin Water Network

Much like the visuals of empty reservoirs in the canyons of the Colorado River, land subsidence is the visual when communities deliberately over-appropriate their groundwater reserves, as is the case in Iron County, Beaver County and Millard County, Utah.

These closed goundwater basins were filled to capacity during the last ice age and in less than one century, the rate of depletion exceeds the rate of natural recharge. This is a national issue, of course, but in the arid lands of the West, the issue is crucial when your only surrogate water supply is depleted, geologically impaired by subsidence, and never to be available again in the time-scale of a geologic Epoch.

The Central Iron County Water Conservancy District (CICWCD) recently secured 26,275 acre-feet of groundwater water rights from Utah’s West Desert. The district has worked since 2006 to acquire these rights that will eventually lead to importing water to Cedar Valley from Wah Wah and Pine valleys, which are 50 miles northwest of Cedar City.

Currently the state estimates that Cedar Valley receives 21,000 acre-feet of water, with 28,000 acre-feet usage. This annual deficit of 7,000 acre-feet has caused aquifer water levels to drop at an increasing rate over the past few decades.

More evidence that the development of prudent water management practices in Utah will never be serious or timely.

USGS REPORT ON PINE AND WAHWAH VALLEYS

USGS REPORT ON SNAKE VALLEY

STIPULATED JUDGMENT

SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT

IRON COUNTY POPULATION ESTIMATES

PROTESTS BY THE FEDERAL AGENCIES

NEWS


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