#Utah’s new river commissioner appointed at ‘critical time’ for #ColoradoRiver use — #StGeorge News #COriver #aridification

Because water shortages in the Colorado River impact energy production, food and drinking water security, forestry and tourism, tools to predict drought and low water levels could inform management decisions that affect millions of people. Photo credit: Utah State University

From The St George News (Mori Kessler):

Last month the governor appointed the state’s newest Colorado River commissioner, but just what does this position entail and how does it relate to Southern Utah?

“The role of the commissioner is to represent the state of Utah in negotiations with regards to the use of its portion of the Colorado River,” Gene Shawcroft, the state’s newly appointed Colorado River Commissioner said Monday. “(It’s) coordinating with the other six (Colorado Basin) states, as well as the federal government as decisions are made state by state with each state’s individual right to use its allocation from the Colorado River.”

Gov. Spencer Cox announced Shawcroft’s appointment Jan. 14. As the state’s Colorado River Commissioner, Shawcroft will serve on the Upper Colorado River Commission. In addition to Utah, this commission includes fellow commissioners from Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming…

While sitting on the commission, Shawcroft will continue to serve in his current position as the general manager of the Central Utah Water Conservancy District located in Orem…

“I think Utah has water they are not yet using and the intent would be for us to find the most efficient and productive way to use that water,” Shawcroft said, adding it is important for the other basin states to be able to do the same.

Proposed Lake Powell Pipeline project map via the Washington County Water Conservation District (Utah) as of November 30, 2020.

Water, overall, is extremely important to the state, and people in the state are worried about the Colorado River, Shawcroft added. While he will be focused on current projects and uses connected to the river, Shawcroft said he is also mindful of Southern Utah and the pipeline proposed to bring water to it…

Currently, Washington County’s sole source of water is the Virgin River Basin.

Last week, Shawcroft spoke before the Utah House Natural Resources Committee in support of a bill that would create the Colorado River Authority of Utah. The new agency would bring the state’s best minds together to help promote and protect Utah’s interest on the river.

Though Zachary Frankel, executive director of the Utah Rivers Council, argued the creation of the new agency was a front for building of the Lake Powell Pipeline.

Shawcroft said that wasn’t the case, as he and the authority – should it be created – are focused on all of Utah’s uses of the Colorado River and not one that hasn’t been built yet. However, planning for the future, particularly where water is concerned, is vital, he said.

“Water isn’t something we look at three or five years in the future – it’s something we have to look at, sometimes a couple of generations – 50 years out – into the future,” he said…

Utah’s Colorado River Compact allotment is 1.725 million acre-feet of water per year, or 23% of the [Upper Colorado River under the Colorado River Compact]. The state is currently using about one million acre-feet annually, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

Shawcroft has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Brigham Young University and is a licensed professional engineer in Utah. He also is active in various professional groups and serves on several governing boards in the water industry, including serving as a trustee for the Colorado River Water Users Association and board member of the National Water Resources Association.

Leave a Reply