Water, Power and $100 Million Savings

Delivering water through the Lake Powell Pipeline to sustain 13 communities within Washington and Kane Counties in Utah is now at least $100 Million cheaper.

“This is the first of a lot of cost saving things you’ll see us implement as we go through value engineering,” said Ronald Thompson, general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District. “We’ve already made a list of things [where] we think we can save money, but we’re not to the final design.”

This savings is approximately 7.5-8 percent of the $1.1 to $1.8 Billion LPP plan that initially included two reservoirs to produce hydropower during times of peak demand on the electrical grid system.

“This really is a water project first and foremost and hydro power is incidental,” Thompson explained. “We did not want hydropower driving the ship if it was going to cause other environmental issues.”

The revised LPP plan will utilize up to 40-Megawatt low-head inline hydropower generators as the pipeline transports over 80,000-acre feet of water nearly 140 miles from Lake Powell near Page, AZ, to Sand Hollow Reservoir in Hurricane, Utah.   

Planning for the anticipated water use of 500,000 people by the year 2065, the Utah Legislature enacted the Lake Powell Pipeline Development Act in 2006. The LPP plan has been guided by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) processes until recently.

“Under the FERC process you do all your studies before you do the environmental impact statement,” said Thompson. “There will be a final draft or a final environmental impact statement issued and then a record decision.”

That decision now comes from various Department of Interior agencies including the Bureau of Reclamation, National Park Service, BLM and possibly the Bureau of Indian Affairs depending on the pipeline alignment.

Thompson believes that the pipeline needs to be completed years before 2030 to be in a “safe zone” for a public water supplier. 

“Our carryover storage in the reservoirs is good, better than it was last year,” said Thompson, adding that “we really need some precipitation.”

Following a wet winter and spring, the summer of 2019 has seen zero measurable rainfall for more than 110 continuous days in St. George, Utah. 

“I really believe to the depth of my heart,” Thompson sai, “if you don’t get that project, there’s not a future for our grandkids in this county.”


Story by: Ben Pollchik
Photo courtesy of: Unsplash.com