Letter to the Editor: Public Officials have a fiduciary responsibility to the public regarding water

Stock image, St. George News

OPINION – St. George City Council is considering a bid for a water park by a private contractor. Apparently there is a high demand by the citizens of St. George for a water park and city officials are responding.

Because we expect our elected officials to do what they are told, St. George City Council is doing their job. Or are they? While it is true that when we elect people into office we expect them to do certain things once there, we also put a certain amount of trust in them to do what is in our best interest. Sometimes those two things conflict and officials have to choose one over the other, and should be able to explain why. Just because we want something doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for us.

I am a firm believer in having fun, in having amenities that make life enjoyable, and in having a variety of options to choose from. I have been to water parks and they are fun. I can see why people here want one  – and why not? It’s hot here.

But there is this little problem of water scarcity. A problem so dire that the Washington County Water Conservancy District says that if we do not have the Lake Powell Pipeline we will be reduced to draconian water usage that will require us to give up our gardens and lawns. A sentiment shared and supported by City officials.

Well, which is it? Are we running out of water or do we have plenty? I know that water parks recycle the water and may even use reuse water, but they still use and lose a lot of water. If we are running out of water, building a water park seems like a bad decision and a massive gamble with the little water we do have, but if we have plenty of water, why the need for the Lake Powell Pipeline?

Perhaps it is economic development like a water park that justifies the need for the Lake Powell Pipeline to begin with. This is not meant to be an article about the Lake Powell Pipeline, but about conflicting messages from our public officials. Whether we get the pipeline or not, we need to be careful with how we use the water.

Not all of us are elected officials whose job it is to be aware of all the issues affecting or potentially affecting our community. That is why we vote people into those positions and then trust them to make good decisions. So while it is true that they work for us, they are also working on our behalf. Because they often know more than we do, we are entrusting them to use that information to make wise decisions – both popular and unpopular.

I understand our elected officials want to make the citizens happy and want to provide a community that is flourishing and enjoyable to live in, and I like that, but I also expect them to consider the impact of decisions that will be felt long after they leave office.

Our elected officials have a fiduciary duty of stewardship to the public’s natural resources. That responsibility means ensuring that the public would benefit more from the outcome of a decision than they would otherwise. While we want fun activities and a thriving economy, we also want to prevent our local government from conveying public resources to private enterprises for short term benefits or at the expense of the citizens.

Will a water park benefit our community more than making sure there is adequate water for the foreseeable future? I am not saying they are mutually exclusive, maybe there is enough for both. Maybe.  A water park may be the next best thing to sliced bread, but … because we live in the desert, foresight and care should be used when officials make decisions regarding water and we should be asking for explanations.

Will there be enough water for a water park and to sustain a thriving community into the future? If the answer to that question is dependent on the Lake Powell Pipeline, we need to question our public officials and ask them to explain the conflicting double message. If this drought continues and we face water shortages, or heaven forbid, a water crisis, the same citizens asking for a water park will be questioning why elected officials did not make better decisions.

Submitted by Greta Hyland

Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them; they do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News.

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Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.

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  • Bender October 13, 2014 at 11:23 am

    You’re barking up the wrong tree here Greta. Water parks have little consumptive use of water. Each ride recycles its water. An approximation of the the consumptive use of a water park, per year, would be about 5 acre-feet of water per year per acre of water surface exposed in the park. This is the amount of water lost to evaporation. We are talking a few acre-feet of water per year, the same amount a partial acre of alfalfa, or golf course turf, uses.
    This kind of uninformed, but well meaning, hand wringing does not serve the goal of promoting reasonable water use here in Southern Utah. It is the same flavor of empty gesture window dressing as making people ask for water in restaurants.
    We don’t have a water shortage here. A water shortage, in my view, is when you have to dip your beat up, galvanized bucket in a filthy ditch or well to drink, bathe and cook.
    Our problem is we have water prices subsidized at an artificially low rate by property taxes. If you want a bone with real meat to chew on, help fight the good fight and campaign for the removal Washington County Water Conservancy District’s taxing authority. When each of us starts paying the true cost of each gallon of water you will see all kinds of changes in water use behavior. This includes the delay of the Lake Powell pipeline 50+ years into the future (or never).
    Viva la water park. Good clean fun on a hot SoUtah day. Just don’t build it in the flood plain next to the convention center.

    • Brian October 13, 2014 at 2:11 pm

      Don’t just get rid of WCWCD’s taxing authority, get rid of their existence. They’re building their own kingdom, and they answer to no one. In theory they answer to the county commissioners, but in practice, not so much. They are flush with cash (look at the crap they spend it on!), and to them it’s free. “Spend all you want, we’ll tax more”. Get rid of the WCWCD altogether, don’t subsidize water for anything or anyone, and sell the land and let them build a water park. We don’t need the Lake Powell pipeline, and by the time we do there won’t be any water there anyway.

      • Bender October 13, 2014 at 5:37 pm

        Brian, I know you anarchist/libertarian dead-enders consider all government evil and trust that free men will manage themselves. The grown ups in the room know that there needs to be rules, regulations, planning and execution in place to make this fantasticly complex society function. A regional water authority is a good thing.

        • Brian October 14, 2014 at 9:12 am

          I’m fine with there being a regional water authority, just not the current setup. Reboot it and start from scratch. The more you learn about WCWCD the more it will disgust you. Ignorance may be bliss, but its a horrible long-term strategy, and the WCWCD feeds off that ignorance (and is thriving). Time to stop feeding the beast.

    • Big Guy October 13, 2014 at 3:01 pm

      BENDER and I don’t agree often, but he’s nailed this one. Good show.

      • Bender October 13, 2014 at 5:33 pm

        Wha???? Well then, I change my mind. No water parks and Lake Powell Pipelines for everyone! 🙂

  • My Evil Twin October 13, 2014 at 11:29 am

    The whole thing sounds to me like somebody’s brother-in-law is looking to get a hefty construction contract. How is this going to be paid for? I don’t think there is any way it will be self-supporting. Not to say it wouldn’t be nice to have. But then it would also be nice to have a new Mercedes. . .

    • Brett October 13, 2014 at 11:59 am

      Do you realize the city isn’t building this? They’d be selling the land to a private company which would invest its own money into building the park.

      • My Evil Twin October 13, 2014 at 1:06 pm

        No, as a matter of fact, I did not realize that. Thank you.

        • Slim October 13, 2014 at 3:29 pm

          Yea, sometimes reading the details of an article will reveal information like that.

  • ladybugavenger October 13, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Water parks are fun, I liked them when I was a kid but now that I’m older I think about all the pee in the water, so as long as you don’t think about the pee- build it and they will come

  • beacon October 13, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    A little bit of water here, a little bit of water, there, Bender, and you have a lot of water. As this area grows and water conservation becomes even more important, how many water parks will be approved? People have Sand Hollow and Quail Creek to take their families and indoor Sand Hollow Aquatic center. What may seem like a good idea for a community with no water challenges facing it may not be a very good idea here. As for “hand wringing”, I don’t believe that Greta’s column was that. She did ask some very good questions and express some valid concerns about water decisions.

    • Bender October 13, 2014 at 5:31 pm

      As the Dude says, “That’s just, like, your opinion man.”
      BEACON, you and I and the court of public opinion are not very good at allocating scarce resources. The free market needs to be playing a much stronger role in deciding where our scarce water goes in Washington County. Right now I have little incentive to make decisions that will save water because it is not priced high enough, per gallon, to catch my attention. You, being a more thoughtful citizen than I, may be making a conscious attempt at saving water, but I really don’t trust that your decisions will be be sound unless they are in direct response to economic pressure.
      Right now the game is rigged by the big landowners and the homebuilding industry. They want as much water infrastructure built as soon as possible, damn the cost, so that they can milk every possible cent out of the county.

  • cranky October 13, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    question: Is their some reason there are a ton of water parks setting empty everywhere you go in the west. Like the one on route 9 heading to Hurricane?

    • Bobber October 13, 2014 at 7:03 pm

      It’s because they have to pay a lot for insurance, and one dumb kid gets hurt or killed, and the lawyers swoop in and it’s over… On top of a lot of other expenses.

  • skippy October 13, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    Over 700 words to express a concern that could suffice thus: “Is the SGCC’s decision to allow a water park contrary to the perception and/or fact that the area faces a scarcity of water, and will we later regret the decision?” Gulp.

  • bishpoul October 13, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    Washington County, Assessor’ Office has set the bad example. They
    are the Bully and we are the victims. God bless America.

  • Bobber October 13, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    If we get the pipeline I’m gonna build that oyster farm I’ve always wanted…

  • bishpoul October 18, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    How do we get the Washington County assessor’ s office to treat the public like citizens. Bad Government. Stop bullying us.

  • Fed Up With Almquist November 8, 2014 at 10:13 am

    Time to recall Almquist (or whatever the process is to remove him from office)!
    It is no wonder he can be low bidder on projects like the new St. George Airport and Jiffy Lube on River Road. When you run your commercial business out of your home, warehouse trees, shrubs, rocks, frontend loaders, etc on improperly zoned residential property you have an advantage over your competition. Try to find an address for Almquist Landscaping in the telephone directory like all other legitimate, law abiding businesses. Talk about of conflict of interest! Almquist should not be allowed to vote on any city zoning issues. His hands are dirty.

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