St. George UT has a growing water problem

St. George UT is about 2 hours north of Las Vegas on I-15. It has spectacular scenery, is a nice place to live, and has been growing fast for years.

Unfortunately, it has a water problem, made worse by residents using way more water per capita compared to other cities that are also in semi-arid areas and deserts. And Utah politicians seem to think a fine solution would be to drain Lake Powell and the Colorado River even more by building a very expensive pipeline.

Maybe. But first, St. George needs to do what Las Vegas, Tucson, and Phoenix have already done. Encourage water conservation and xeriscaping. Create tiered rates charging those who use excessive amounts of water more. The higher the tier, the more costly (not less) it is.

The result is Las Vegas, Tucson, and Phoenix now use less water in total then they did twenty years ago, despite much larger populations. Vegas has been toilet-to-tap for years. It can be done.

It’s your turn now, St George.

Remarkably cheap rates mean that residents of an area with only eight inches of annual rainfall are using tremendous amounts of water. An average St. George resident uses more than twice as much water as the average citizen of Los Angeles.

Political leaders at the state and local level view this primarily as a supply issue. Their preferred solution is a gargantuan $1.4 billion pipeline that would connect the region with Lake Powell, a reservoir along the Colorado River.

Amelia Nuding, senior water analyst for Western Resource Advocates, believes regional leaders should focus on three strategies to achieve quick conservation success: better data collection, higher water rates, and building codes that require water-smart construction and landscaping. Not only would that meet St. George’s water needs, according to Nuding’s group, but it would avoid further depleting an already burdened Colorado River.