Preliminary estimates from the state’s water rights agency show that the Spanish Valley Watershed, which contains Moab and Spanish Valley, can safely withdraw 50-100% more water than it currently uses each year.
The estimates account for the anticipated effect of climate change reducing water availability in the valley over time accounting for water it could, but they do not account for the potential of tapping the Colorado River for extra capacity.
The Division of Water Rights, which by law determines how much water communities can safely pull from their aquifers, has been studying the question locally since around 2014, looking closely at Moab to determine where the valley stands with its water budget.
The division discussed the estimates during a March 17 meeting of the Moab Area Watershed Partnership, a coalition of stakeholders from the federal to local level, each interested in protecting Moab’s watershed.
The range is a precursor to a singular safe yield figure that locals and the state are hoping to nail down as they devise a water management plan for Moab — a plan that would serve as a guiding document while the valley grows and develops.
As local officials work to identify the safe yield, they are also planning for drought resilience and strategies to make more efficient use of the limited but regularly renewed resource. One potential strategy: Tap the Colorado River.
Moab is the only municipality in Utah to sit on the river, yet only one public entity in the valley holds a water right on it: the San Juan Spanish Valley Special Service District.
That leaves the rest of the valley’s water users to divvy up and share between 4,500 and 7,800 acre-feet of groundwater per year. By comparison, state and federal agreements entitle the State of Utah to 1.725 million acre-feet of Colorado River water.
The state currently consumes 1 million acre-feet of river water and, to account for climate change, it plans to develop only 400,000 additional acre-feet in coming years.
I’m gonna trail off here and finish the thought tomorrow because mom and granny are getting here soon!