Washington City Utah | (435) 656-6300
111 North 100 East | Washington, Utah 84780 [map]
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Undertakings of Necessity
Hanging on the walls at Washington City Hall are numerous pictures of our proud, resilient, and forward thinking heritage. I can’t help but be inspired each time I pause to look at these pictures and reflect on the challenges they faced and the bold approaches they took to overcome them. Perhaps the picture on my mind most as of late, is one of horses harnessed to wagons and men with shovels and pickaxes at the base of Shinobe Kibe in a trench twice as wide and twice as tall as them.
This undertaking was driven by necessity. Survival in this barren desert depended on growing crops; and crops, like people and livestock, require water. Dam building on the Virgin River for irrigation purposes started in 1857, the same year the Adair and Covington companies arrived. For the next 34 years settlers built dams, putting all of their effort and resources into them, only to see them wash away time and again, often with their crops, hopes, and dreams. It wasn’t until 1891, after much collaboration, labor, and expense, they were able to build a dam that would endure and benefit future generations.
With the diversion dam built, that brave generation set their sights and determination on the building of a canal through the valley that would ultimately create “The Fields”. The canal, having served its purpose for over 100 years as a 10’ wide and over 5 mile long open ditch, was piped in 2004 for safety purposes. Although underground now, it still serves the purpose of irrigating the remaining agriculture fields, and as a valuable source of “secondary water”. Atop the course of the canal runs a 50 foot easement that must be protected for access to and maintenance of the pipe, which, with some improvements, could serve a dual purpose as a valuable addition to our trail system.
While a lot has changed since the days of dam and canal projects– the need for intentional, forward thinking investment in water and infrastructure in Washington County has not. In addition to continued implementation and enhancement of conservation measures, a regional reuse system is among the most beneficial measures we can collectively take for wise water stewardship.
The time has come for our generation to tackle the bold and forward thinking projects of our day. A regional reuse system is one such undertaking. About 13 million gallons of water flows through the St George Wastewater Treatment Plant daily, and while some of that water is captured and reused, most is not. Water that is not recaptured for reuse flows back into the Virgin River only to be used and reused by lower basin states.
A regional reuse system would include expanding wastewater treatment plants, additional water storage reservoirs, pipelines and pump stations. Once complete, the reuse water available for municipal and industrial purposes would increase from 410 million gallons per year to more than 5 billion gallons per year. Investing in innovative conservation and reuse will enhance our water security and sustainability. A reliable water supply is essential for our community, economy, environment, and quality of life.
We need support and buy-in at all levels in seeing the value of Southern Utah leading out in retaining, reusing, and conserving our own water. The good news is we have willing partners with other local municipalities and the Washington County Water Conservancy District. An undertaking such as this is driven by necessity.