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Doubts Cast On Utah Water Projects

Auditors claim that state water officials did not question information that was given to them by local agencies.

A report released Tuesday by the legislative auditor has cast doubts on certain projections used by the Division of Water Resources to predict the scope of state water projects. While the report does not question the need for the Lake Powell Pipeline and Bear River Development Project, it has caused some lawmakers to question the size of the plans.

One of objections, according to Audit Supervisor James Behunin, concerns the lack of data verification. He said before the Legislative Audit Subcommittee that state officials took local water estimates at face value.

“As they prepared their water studies, they contact each public water system every five years to verify whether the data is accurate,” Behunin said. “This approach is problematic because no actual verification of the data is made. If the locals say that the data is accurate, then the division accepts it at face value.”

Based on a 2000 study, the DWR estimated that by 2025, Utahns will be consuming 220 gallons of water per day. Behunin disputes this, citing trends showing the gradual reduction of water use.

“We believe that there are trends in water conservation, such as the use of low-flow appliances,” he said. “Utah homeowners are applying much more water to their landscapes than is really needed [but] there is a trend toward smaller lot sizes. All of these will have the effect of reducing the rate of water use.”

The audit also found that the DWR did not take into account local development of water resources.