ST. GEORGE — The Utah governor says he agrees with the assessment of the leaders of the Washington County Water Conservancy District that plans for a Lake Powell Pipeline should be put on the back-burner in favor of conservation and water reuse methods.

In a video screenshot, Gov. Spencer Cox is seen during a taping of the PBS Utah “Governor’s Monthly News Conference” program, Salt Lake City, Utah, Dec. 20, 2023 | Photo via video courtesy of PBS Utah, St. George News

Gov. Spencer Cox made his comments in response to a question from St. George News during the Wednesday taping of the PBS Utah “Governor’s Monthly News Conference” program in Salt Lake City.

Reports by St. George News and Fox 13 have confirmed that the conservancy district, which oversees water resources in much of Southern Utah, is moving away from a proposed Lake Powell Pipeline in favor of a system to reuse existing water and conservation measures.

Officials have said the reuse of so-called gray water for agricultural uses alone could nearly double the existing water supply locally. They also said that any possibility of a Lake Powell Pipeline is now 20 years from even entering a planning stage.

The next two decades will be about water conservation and reuse projects before a pipeline is considered, and Cox said he agrees with that vision. 

“I think it fits perfectly with my view of the Lake Powell Pipeline and you’ve heard me talk about this is an all-of-the-above approach,  especially for Southern Utah,” Cox said. “I think it fits in a long-term horizon.”

Among the water reuse projects underway locally include the Toquer Reservoir, which broke ground last month. 

Cox continues to talk about the impression that was made on him when he visited Israel in September 2022 and saw their water conservation efforts firsthand. 

Zach Renstrom, manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District, points out scars on the hillside that mark the anticipated water line of the upcoming Toquer Reservoir, Toquerville, Utah, Nov. 7, 2023 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

According to a study by Northwestern University, Israel reuses 90% of its wastewater, mainly for agricultural purposes. It also gets 70% of its water from the salty Meterterinarian Sea through a system of desalinization plants. 

And while desalinization is being mainly seen as something for the coastal areas of California, Cox said desalinization might actually be an additional option for Southern Utah. 

“People think, ‘Well, that’s just for the ocean.’ It’s not,” Cox said. “We have brackish water in Southern Utah that’s just never been used for drinking water. And some of these new technologies have the ability for us to really change and unlock some new water sources.”

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