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KUER’s Southeast Utah Bureau is based in San Juan County. The Southwest Utah Bureau is based in the St. George area. Both initiatives focus on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues, faith and spirituality and other topics of relevance to Utahns.

Iron County officials look to pipe water from elsewhere to solve area’s water woes

Iron County water
Lexi Peery/ KUER
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Iron County officials discussed water and future projects for the area in front of around 400 people at Southern Utah University.

Iron County had one of the driest and warmest years on record in 2021. At a packed public meeting Tuesday night county officials laid out the plans for the future of water resources in the area.

The Cedar Valley has unique challenges when it comes to water. Area residents rely on aquifer storage, rather than a river system or reservoirs, according to Paul Monroe, general manager of the Central Iron County Water Conservancy District. The county, much like the rest of southwest Utah, is also experiencing a lot of growth.

Monroe said because of their drying local aquifers, they’re looking elsewhere.

“We’ve got some challenges and we’ve got some solutions that are on the table,” he said after the meeting. “All of them are going to take money and resources to perform, and they’re all going to be expensive.”

One of those solutions is the Pine Valley Water Supply project, which would pipe in water from just north of the county. The project is estimated to cost $260 million and it’s now under federal environmental review.

County officials say yearly water usage is around 28,000 acre-feet, while the water that’s actually available is around 21,000 acre-feet per year. They hope to import 15,000 acre-feet of water through the Pine Valley Water Supply project. They said it’s needed given the growth the area is experiencing.

However, environmental groups say there’s already enough water in the area and the project’s costs will be a burden to taxpayers. They’re also concerned about what importing water from another aquifer will do to the overall system in the region.

Laura Cotts, with Iron County Citizens for Sustainable Water Use, said she’d like to see the city do more to conserve water and limit growth, than to pipe water from other places.

“To me the pipeline just kicks the problem down the road,” she said. “It puts another aquifer at risk of being drawn down and subsiding. I think this is a delightful short-term fix to a very long-term problem. And I can see us facing the exact same situation when we have more than 200,000 people in the valley.”

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