Old Post Office in Virgin, unspecified date. Virgin, Utah | Photo by Stephanie DeGraw, St. George News
St. George – The Virgin City Council is grappling with water issues and whether to adopt a temporary zoning ordinance to pause development for up to six months.
Residents and developers expressed their opinions for and against stopping the development during the special meeting of the council last Thursday. Included in these comments, which came from the attorney general and two council members, covered discussions they had with Zachary Renstrom, general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy.
The council will decide to stop on Tuesday, January 17, and has instructed his attorney Heath Snow to begin negotiations with the Water Conservancy District and determine exactly how many water connections the city has. The solicitor will also ask if Virgin can replace its water connections to waive the fee charged by the district for joining its water collection agreement.
“We have an oral decision for the town attorney to go to the water conservancy district and start some negotiations,” Mayor Jan Krause told St. George News. “The main thing we need to know from the water conservancy is how many connections we have and what minimum connections they would consider from us to allow us to enter into an existing water pooling agreement.”
Krause said the proposed law will go back to the drawing board to make some adjustments. It said Virgin was “urgently in need” of estimates of the impact that previously approved developments would have on its water supply, systems and septic saturation.
The city has doubled over the past several years. According to the draft decree, approved water connections may approach or may exceed the limits of their water resources. Also, the city is affected by a “catastrophic statewide drought, which makes the provision of potable water for new development problematic.”
There is currently a limited agreement for Virgin cooking water supplies with the Washington County Water Conservancy. Some city council members hope to enter into a new deal and join the district’s pooling agreement before it is closed to membership.
“One potential solution to the problem is to divert the remaining water deliveries we had for any penalty, and then we’ll be in a water catchment agreement,” Krause said.
During the special council meeting, resident Wanda Leverett warned that if a moratorium was not implemented, Virgin risked paying the fee to join the pooling agreement.
“If you cut those water connections while you’re trying to make an agreement with the water conservancy district, you’ve lost your bargaining chip,” Leverett said.
But some members of the crowd at the meeting spoke out against halting building permits for up to six months. It would hurt his business if the bomb went through, said Jared Westhoff, co-owner of Zion Weeping Buffalo.
Washington County is one of the fastest growing areas in the country. According to the Utah Department of Natural Resources websiteIt is estimated that the county’s population will increase by up to 200% by 2060.
In addition to residents, Washington County attracts more than 6 million annual visitors and thousands of seasonal residents. These factors add significantly to the water demand in Washington County.
The people of the county depend exclusively on the Virgin River for water.
The county currently uses more than 90% of its annual reliable water supply. Additional conservation measures and the development of local water alternatives are necessary to protect the county’s current and projected population and economy,” the website states.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2023, All Rights Reserved.