From The Moab Sun News (Ashley Bunton):
Can the City of Moab take water out of the Colorado River if its springs and wells become depleted? Is climate change data being factored into water use planning in Moab and in the State of Utah?
These were two questions raised on Tuesday, May 14, at the Moab City Council workshop discussing an assessment and recent report detailing surface and groundwater resources in and around Moab.
Moab City Engineer Chuck Williams delivered the hour-long workshop presentation along with the authors of the report, Kenneth Kolm and Paul K.M. van der Heijde. Kolm works at Hydrologic Systems Analysis LLC in Golden, Colorado, while van der Heijde works at Heath Hydrology Inc. based in Boulder, Colorado.
The report contains a three-phase plan for Moab’s springs and wells. The first phase, to use mapping and data to perform a Hydrologic and Environmental System Analysis (HESA) of Moab’s springs and wells to develop a comprehensive and updated understanding of the groundwater system, has been completed. The second phase, collecting hyrodological and hydrogeological data currently available to use in a water budget, has also been completed.
The third phase, which has not yet been completed, aims to update the Water Protections Plans for the city’s springs and wells.
The city’s plans are not the same as the Groundwater Management Plan currently under development, and spearheaded by, the Utah Department of Natural Resources Division of Water Rights for Moab and Spanish Valley. The report presented at the workshop explained surface water and groundwater flows and how the geologic rock formations influence the flow, storage, distribution of water, and did not talk about water rights.
However, the city’s data from the assessment and its plans will be considered in the development of the Groundwater Management Plan, said Marc Stilson, the southeastern regional engineer for the Division of Water Rights, along with data from his agency’s work on water rights adjudication in the valley and a recent U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study.
Moab City Council member Rani Derasary asked during the workshop if climate change data is reflected in the assessment and planning.
“In terms of climate change, is there a standard, either percentage or formula, that, if you wanted a community to plan out 40 years, does the state allow you to calculate that in?” Derasary asked. “Is that all based on the engineer calculating anyway, then it would be based on consultation from a hydrologist on how you should help calculate that? Just cause it seems like that’s something we’re facing. I don’t know how it’s going to affect these numbers.”
Van der Heijde responded by saying that climate change data has not been included and explained that a change would mean either more snow and precipitation or less, which would create a “major change” in the use of water by plants and the in-flow of water from Mill Creek from the La Sal Mountains.
“I would say in this right now, we don’t have it,” he said. we didn’t locate it right now, because there was not this question,” he said. “If you are concerned for a 40-year plan, I think that there are already studies that give some indication for this area … not certain what those predictions are, we (have not) looked into that… I’m not certain where to find it, but it is possible.”