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Envision Utah Water Results Biased, Critic Says

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Envision Utah web page
Envision Utah asked people to weigh in on five scenarios. Just one of them -- a "bleak" one -- did not include the Lake Powell Pipeline in Utah's future water mix.

The Your Utah Your Future survey last spring showed that people are concerned about water. It also shows a majority supports building the Lake Powell Pipeline. But some critics are now questioning those results.

Around 53,000 people weighed in on a poll that’s designed to guide the state’s decision makers. Eighty-five percent said they would conserve water to accommodate a doubling of the population in the next few decades. And half in the statewide survey back the Lake Powell Pipeline -- despite its $1 billion cost.

“It comes down to: Do we cap growth in that part of the state by running out of water?” says Ari Bruening, chief operating officer for the organization that conducted the study, Envision Utah.

Even with aggressive conservation and pulling out some lawn, Bruening says, “we couldn’t get to 2050 without the Lake Powell Pipeline.”

The idea that Utah can’t live without the controversial project doesn’t hold up for conservation activist Lisa Rutherford. She points to legislative audits that say Utah’s water data is too incomplete for decision-making. And Rutherford says about half of the survey advisors are part of Utah’s water development community.

“I don’t mean to demean these people, but I do mean to question the focus,” she says. “Was this set up to support people who have skin in the game?”

Rutherford says Envision Utah’s only scenario that did not include the pipeline showed a landscape largely devoid of plants and local farms, lost jobs and stagnant economies.

“That kind of bleak scenario would scare anybody off,” she says, “but it’s not really the truth.”

The Envision Utah findings are available online for water and other topics.

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