The Moab Sun News’ article on the USGS groundwater study for the Moab area mentioned that the estimated water available from the La Sal Mountains in our Glen Canyon Aquifer was decreased by over 10,000 acre-feet (“Water study offers clearer view of local aquifers,” Nov. 24-30, 2016 Moab Sun News). This is a substantial portion, or even most, of the water in the Glen Canyon Aquifer that would have been available for future growth in the Moab area.
The USGS study includes not only the Glen Canyon Aquifer as a source of water, but also considers Negro Bill Canyon, Pack Creek, Kane Creek and the Colorado River as possible alternate sources of water. Alternative sources such as using the sewer plant effluent and the excess spring water in the winter from the golf course area is not part of the study. The total available water estimated in the study is approximately 17,000 acre-feet.
The Sun News’ article did not report that the alternative sources of water will cost many millions of dollars to transport and process. Neither the county nor the city is currently charging any fees to current developers to finance development for alternate sources of water. There is no long-range planning for estimating the fees that will have to be charged to large projects such as the USU campus and the thousands of second homes that are planned for the Moab Valley. Current Moab ratepayers may have to pay substantially higher rates for water to supply developments with high cost water.
The current USGS study will be complete in about six months, and a second phase of the study will include computer modeling of the data currently being collected. Unlimited development with cheap water may not be the future of the Moab Valley.