SOUTHERN UTAH – A draft of the Beryl Enterprise Groundwater Management Plan that was discussed in an October public meeting in Enterprise is approaching possible adoption on Dec. 21.
Plan for adoption: Beryl Enterprise Groundwater Management Plan.
According to a press release from the Utah Department of Natural Resources an unsafe amount of water from the Beryl Enterprise groundwater basin is being withdrawn on an annual basis reaching back over 40 years. A safe yield for the basin is estimated to be 34,000 acre-feet per year. The current average depletion from the groundwater system is estimated at approximately 65,000 acre-feet annually. Due to the unsafe levels of annual depletion the Beryl Enterprise aquifer has become a candidate for a critical management area as defined in section 73-5-15 of the Utah Code.
The proposed management plan has been in development since 2007, and has been a public process with the first public meeting being held at Enterprise High School in March 2007. The most recent meeting was held on Oct. 4 of this year.
A proposed regulation schedule uses a gradual implementation approach, authorized by statute for critical management areas, which consists of two phases. The first phase reduces the total depletion by 10 percent at the end of an approximate 40-year period. The second phase reduces the depletion by an additional 5 percent at the end of successive 10-year periods until the target reduction of 31,000 acre-feet is achieved or evidence indicates that additional reductions are not necessary.
The regulated reductions required by this plan shall be implemented by priority date of the water rights regardless of the nature of use. The state engineer will maintain a priority list on the Division of Water Rights website which reflects depletion by water right for purposes of this groundwater management plan.
The groundwater management plan regulation schedule carries through to 2130, when it is anticipated that aquifer depletion will return to safe levels.
Options for implementation
In the Oct. 4 meeting, officials with the Escalante Valley Water Users Association expressed favor with the proposed plan, and discussed ways it may best be implemented. Two options suggested by the association included an informal, voluntary arrangement with the state engineer by pooling water rights collectively, or establishing a local water district to oversee the reduction in water use and retain local control. A default option is to have no voluntary arrangement, in which case the state engineer determines the priorities for water use in the region.
The plan is currently on schedule for adoption on Dec. 21, 2012. Though the public comment period for the plan has already passed, individuals with questions or comments about the management plan may contact the Utah Division of Water Rights, P.O. Box 146300, Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-6300, or visit the Division’s website.
For more details on the proposed groundwater management plan, as well as data concerning existing water rights, priority dates, and an economy report association with the plan, visit the Utah Division of Water Right’s Beryl Enterprise Groundwater Management Plan website.
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