Water levels at Lake Powell shrunk to historic lows this year, unspecified date | Photo by Rick Bowmer, The Associated Press, St. George News
ST. GEORGE – St. George is in the national spotlight as one of the places that wastes the most water during the current drought in the West. The city was cited for lack of water conservation during a news satire television program Last Week with John Oliver on HBO Monday.
“Utah residents use the most water of any Western State. And nowhere is this more true than St. George, which has become one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the country with purpose and water consumption among the highest, ”Oliver said. “Not only does St. George have very cheap water rates, their county, which is in the desert, has at least a dozen golf courses… they are pretty much the dumbest possible thing to put into the middle of the desert other than Burning Man. ”
Oliver mentioned that Utah recently passed new laws encouraging conservation. But leaders have also been pursuing a billion-dollar pipeline to bring in what has been referred to as “additional surplus water” from Lake Powell.
Oliver pointed out that anyone who has looked at that lake would know surplus water does not exist. The pipeline seems wildly irresponsible on Utah’s part, Oliver said.
He said the lake was more than 50 feet higher last year than today. The popular destination for houseboats is at a historic low amid a climate change-fueled megadrought engulfing the US West.
Also, hydroelectricity production would be halted if water levels at the lake’s at Glen Canyon Dam drop another 32 feet, according to a CNN website report.
In St. George, a temporary ban on new car washes and recreation facilities that used large amounts of water daily passed earlier this year. The City Council and staff are revising the city’s water conservation and landscaping ordinances to match water-saving recommendations from the Washington County Water Conservancy District. The ban provides six months for a county city government to address the issue that made the original ban necessary. The ban is permitted under state law.
Oliver also pointed out that all western states, not just Utah, can’t continue using water the way they did in the past. He said states must start working together to reduce their collective water use.
“Experts suggest it might not help to use the word drought anymore, which sounds temporary,” Oliver said. “Instead, use the term ‘aridification’ as a better way to describe what might be a long-term drawing of the American West. We need to be incentivizing conservation and water efficiency. ”
Aridification is the gradual change of a region from a wetter to a drier climate, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
But Oliver’s biggest concern is the “bombshell” that the government dropped on the Colorado River states. He said these states have 60 days to create an emergency plan to stop using between 2 million and 4 million acre-feet of water in the next year. It is a massive amount of water to stop consuming. If it doesn’t happen, the agency will use its emergency authority to make the cuts itself.
“That’s a drastic move, but we are in a drastic situation,” Oliver said. “So let’s hope those states get to work in the next two months and come up with a decent plan because we desperately need to prepare for a much drier future in the American West.”
See Oliver make his argument in YouTube video below.
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