Utah vastly overstating future water shortages

This web exclusive appeared May 7, 2015, on hcn.org:

Utah’s Division of Water Resources has painted a bleak picture for the state’s hydrological future. Even if water use is cut through conservation, officials project that demand will outstrip available supplies by 2040, as the population nearly doubles to 6 million people by 2060. A whopping $33 billion in upgrades, maintenance of existing water systems and development of new supplies will be needed to make up the shortfall.

Set against a backdrop of a few difficult drought years, reservoirs dropping and some communities overpumping aquifers, the scenario can seem a pretty compelling argument for two massive and controversial water projects that the state wants to build: A 6-foot-diameter, 140-mile-long pipeline that would allow Utah to draw its remaining share of Colorado River water from Lake Powell and pump it to Kane and Washington Counties; and a new dam on the Bear River system, which feeds into the Great Salt Lake, that would supply 220,000 acre-feet of water to surrounding communities.

Trouble is, that scenario may be flat wrong, or at the very least overstated. More…