Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Results of the Local Water Users Meeting

We (along with about 300 other local residents) attended a meeting presented by the Escalante Water Users Board. This is a group of large agricultural users who have been diligently working on a plan to stimulate water conservation and also to assist the state by developing a plan to re-purchase and retire "water rights"

Seems that the largest issue surrounding the plan offered by the Water Users is that the Utah State Engineer, who is personally and solely in charge of administering Ground Water Management Plans, feels the plan is "woefully short" of goals set forth by the State Legislature.

Basically, the state passed a Ground Water Management Law that says "The State Engineer may establish Ground Water Management Plans where necessary for conservation to reach a "safe usage level"... and that he shall consider any and all economic impact to the local water users.

The Escalante Desert Valley sits atop an aquifer who's size has yet to be fully determined. We know that in the 1950's average well water levels were around 46 feet. Today, the average well level (as determined by 11 monitored wells out of thousands) the water level is closer to 90 feet.

Since most wells are drilled to about 200 feet, no one really knows for sure how deep the aquifer really runs. No one knows for sure how long it takes for the mountain snow to re-charge this underground lake either.

Now the State Engineer would love to exercise the "easy solution" quite soon. That would be to come to "safe usage" within a matter of a few years. After all, he could say this is what he was directed to do, and he did it.

Utah law provides that water rights and the restrictions of their usage is based on "first priority" by date. For all practical purposes, to return to "safe usage" in the near future, anyone who owned water rights dated any more recently than the end of 1941 would lose the right to use water... even if it meant they'd have no domestic (culinary) water right.

That means a person's home would become immediately unfit for occupancy, and financially worthless. That would affect hundreds of homeowners throughout the valley.

For further information on this "abuse" of power by the State Engineer, check the latest article, written by Mitch Cole a resident of Beryl Junction and member of The Spectrum and Daily News Writers Group.

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Posted by Shari Thomas @ 3:46 PM

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