Allocating Green River water

January 23, 2012


Fly Fishing green riverThis is a cool article not only for fly fisherman but in general. I am all for alternate forms of energy including nuclear but I think this is article is spot on, at least my non nuclear knowledge tells me it is a good opinion.

Taken from the Salt Lake Tribune

Utah’s chief water rights official has approved an application to divert 53,600 acre-feet of water from the Green River to cool a proposed nuclear power plant. This is a mistake because of what could happen during an extreme drought. If the river were unable to supply all of the water for which there are rights, the nuclear plant could be placed on short rations. That could force a shutdown of the plant.

In his approval, State Engineer Kent L. Jones acknowledges that this is a possibility, though he appears to believe it is an unlikely one. Nevertheless, it is folly to allow the construction of an $18 billion nuclear power plant in the extremely arid region of the Green River where the water rights already are overappropriated. Nuclear plants are critically dependent on water to cool them. The Fukushima disaster in Japan has taught Americans what can happen if that water supply is shut off.

To avoid such an emergency, Utah would require the developers of the nuclear plant to build a reservoir large enough “to provide for the safe shutdown of plant operations and provide for emergency operations at the plant” during water shortages.

But think what that could mean during a prolonged drought. Under Utah water law, holders of senior water rights are entitled to take their water from the stream before those with junior rights, and there would be many water rights senior to those of the nuclear power plant.

But would Utah really be able to put the plant on short rations? The public and political pressure not to do that would be enormous. Officials could be balancing electrical brown-outs against other needs for water, such as thirsty communities downriver.

Why go there?

The state engineer acknowledges that several climate model studies predict a possible 10-30 percent reduction in stream flow runoff to the Colorado River Basin by 2050, though none “has been scientifically validated as a definitive predictor of future conditions.” We concede that the science is not certain, but in our view, that is cautionary reason enough not to gamble that the science is wrong, particularly when there is a serious proposal under development to pipe 82,000 acre-feet from Lake Powell to St. George.

Jones holds that Utah’s allocation under the Colorado River Compact is underutilized and there may be 400,000 acre-feet still available.

But devoting a large part of that to a nuclear power plant near Green River, especially when Mother Nature could turn down the spigot, is not prudent.

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One Response to “Allocating Green River water”

  1. Kyle Says:

    Thanks for sharing. Seems everyone wants to get their hands on the water from the Green these days. I hope this can be stopped and would voice my opinion on the matter whenever necessary. Keep us up to date on this please.


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