The Lake Powell pipeline project, being developed by the Utah Division of Water Resources, will provide southern Utah residents with an unparalleled level of water-supply security when it is completed in 2020.

As water supplies across the West are constantly challenged, now is the time to responsibly plan to enhance and sustain our quality of life. This project's planning, design and construction will span a dozen years and provide community benefits that clearly will be worth the wait.

The project involves approximately 139 miles of pipeline from Lake Powell to Sand Hollow Reservoir and an additional 35 miles of pipeline from Sand Hollow Reservoir to Cedar City. Pumping facilities at Lake Powell near Glen Canyon Dam and booster pumping stations along the alignment will lift water over the high point. Hydroelectric generating facilities will capture the power of that water as it flows from the high point to Sand Hollow reservoir. The hydropower will help pay for project costs.

With capital costs rising dramatically in all construction sectors, the state has completed a study to estimate the current cost of the Lake Powell pipeline project, which is now in the environmental planning phase. Major factors in cost escalation include cost of fuel, steel prices, other material prices and construction costs.

As part of our ongoing stewardship of the state's resources, we will review and update the cost opinion on a regular basis. Because projects of this size take years to permit, design and construct, this ongoing review represents a realistic method of estimating the dollar amount required.

We'll continue to refine the cost opinion during subsequent phases of the project so the total cost by the end of the project will not be a surprise but will reflect our best effort to gain value from every dollar spent.

MWH Americas Inc. has been working on the concept design and cost. The updated cost opinion is based on construction of the project components including the Lake Powell Pipeline Intake, an intake pump station, nine booster pump stations, two regulating tanks, seven hydropower facilities and associated reservoirs, power transmission lines and the main pipeline.

The June opinion of construction costs for the Lake Powell Pipeline is $1.064 billion. This cost estimate remains a good-faith "snapshot in time." Direct comparisons to previous cost opinions are not relevant because the scope of the project and the basis for estimating its cost have changed significantly. However, costs undeniably have risen sharply over the past several years, as they have for major construction projects nationwide.

The Lake Powell pipeline team will continue its attention to cost detail as the project progresses, aiming to maintain an optimal engineering and construction schedule to minimize the effects of inflation. In the end, the cost of this project, amortized over a very long lifetime of pipeline service to southern Utah residents will be seen as a worthy investment.

When they turn the tap, our customers — both those here today and our children and grandchildren who come after us — have a right to expect high-quality water to flow. This project ensures that outcome.


Dennis Strong is the director of the Utah Division of Water Resources.