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SJSVSSD: Change Application for San Juan Spanish Valley Special Service District

June 02, 2021
by John Weisheit

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New information: Order of the State Engineer

Note: A Ground Water Management Plan for Moab and Spanish Valleys will soon be implemented by the State Engineer.



GWSSA to protest San Juan agency’s application for change to water rights

by Jeff Richards

Both the Grand Water and Sewer Service Agency (GWSSA) and Moab city are planning to file formal protests against a water change application filed recently with the Utah Division of Water Rights.

According to the change application filed with the state on April 27 by William Johnston, chairman of the San Juan Spanish Valley Special Service District (SJSVSSD), the special service district is seeking to transfer 5,000 acre-feet of water rights from the San Juan River near Bluff, Utah, to the Colorado River near Moab, and to proposed wells located in the southern portion of Spanish Valley and some in the Kane Spring drainage. The water is for proposed municipal use by customers living in the area of the SJSVSSD, according to the application.

But GWSSA and Moab city officials are among those expressing concerns about the proposal.

In a memo to the Moab City Council dated May 27, Moab City Engineer Rebecca Andrus noted that the proposed wells will be using the same aquifer used by the city.

“The addition of these wells could significantly impact the water supply for the city of Moab,” Andrus wrote. “Some of the wells are in the city’s source protection zones and many are adjacent, and could cause contamination.”

The SJSVSSD application lists a total of 24 wells to be drilled, one of which is at an existing well location. The proposed wells range from 8 to 12 inches in diameter and will be between 200 and 2,500 feet deep, according to the application. A new 15 million gallon year-round storage reservoir is also planned, to be located within the special service district area. The application states that a diversion structure and pump on the east bank of the Colorado River will also be used to transport some water via pipeline to the point of use. The Colorado River is listed on the application as a tertiary water source, meaning it is third in line for providing the water. The application lists the Spanish Valley wells as the primary source and the Kane Springs aquifer as the secondary source.

GWSSA committee members said at their regular board meeting last week that pumping water uphill from the Colorado River hasn’t proven to be economically feasible.

“If they wanted to take 100 acre feet out of our wells out here, and pump the other 4,900 acre feet out of the Colorado River, we wouldn’t care,” said Gary Wilson, vice president of the GWSSA operating committee. “But the other way around, it’s a concern.”

“If they actually had the funds to do that [pump substantial amounts of water from the Colorado River], I would write them a letter of support, not protest,” added Wilson.

On June 2, the GWSSA committee members voted unanimously to file a formal letter of protest with the state engineer. Earlier this week, Moab City Manager Donna Metzler said that the city is drafting a similar letter and that the issue is scheduled to be on the Moab City Council’s agenda for its next regular meeting on June 14.

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