UTAH'S WATER

Water project to bring running water to southern Utah community for the first time

Nov 13, 2023, 11:16 AM | Updated: Nov 14, 2023, 9:18 am

WESTWATER, San Juan County — A small community in southern Utah still doesn’t have running water. Though, a new project is in the works that could bring water to their homes by 2024. 

In a canyon just outside of Blanding springs is an artesian well that has long filled the needs of the community in the area.

Artesian well between Blanding and Westwater that has been the only source of running water for 29 homes. (Erin Cox, KSL TV)

Artesian well between Blanding and Westwater that has been the only source of running water for 29 homes. (Erin Cox, KSL TV)

The community is called Westwater, and it consists of 29 homes. Its people have relied on the well as their only source of water for years, until Blanding City and others decided to do something to help. 

Westwater community of 29 homes at dusk. (Erin Cox, KSL TV)

Westwater community of 29 homes at dusk. (Erin Cox, KSL TV)

“Just imagine if you turn on your faucet and nothing comes out of therethere’s anxiety and stress, and all the that comes along with it,” said Thomas Chee, the President of the Westwater community. 

President Chee shows KSL 5 News photographer the artesian well. (Erin Cox, KSL TV)

President Chee shows KSL 5 News photographer the artesian well. (Erin Cox, KSL TV)

That’s how Chee and many other residents in the community, like Renae Gene, grew up.  

Gene was born and raised in Westwater and experienced having no water or electricity.  

“It was pretty harsh,” said Gene.  

Gene hauls water for many members of the community after she fills up her 1,000-gallon tank.  

The tank lasts two weeks and is filtered through a motor for her family of five.  

When the city water is closed for the weekends, Gene and other residents take five-gallon buckets and fill them up at the artesian well. 

Last year, their community finally turned the lights on for the first time.

With electricity, the community has now turned to getting running waterIt’s called the Westwater Project and involves collaborating with the Navajo Nation, Blanding City, the State of Utah and other stakeholders.

Plans for the new water line will follow the electric line installed in 2022. (Erin Cox, KSL TV)

Plans for the new water line will follow the electric line installed in 2022. (Erin Cox, KSL TV)

At a Blanding City Council meeting in August, updates from project managers showed progress in the planning. 

Blanding City Mayor Logan Monson said if all goes well, Westwater could have running water by next summer. 

“Running water? I think that that’s the final step,” Monson said.  

The mayor has worked on making sure contracts, agreements and funding between the Navajo Nation, Westwater and Blanding are in place.  

The current system allows residents to buy 1,000 gallons of clean water from Blanding for $10.  

Blanding city officials are working on a new water station for the community while they wait for the project’s completion.  

“They can haul their water, put it in a tank and then turn on a sink,” Monson said.  

Blanding constructed a well that can airlift 150 gallons per minute. Plans for a pump house and treatment house are underway.  

Ryan Barton, Navajo Nation hydrologist, Clayton Long USU Mentor and Corey Higdon, Project Manager observe new well installed by Blanding City. (Erin Cox, KSL TV)

Ryan Barton, Navajo Nation hydrologist, Clayton Long USU Mentor and Corey Higdon, Project Manager observe new well installed by Blanding City. (Erin Cox, KSL TV)

Ryan Barton with the Navajo Nation said the water line will follow the powerlines. 

“Having access to water and electricity, it gives you more time for other parts of your life to focus on instead of hauling water,” said Barton.  

The project design is 60% complete, according to project manager Corey Higdon.  

“I think it’s just touching that everyone has been able to come together to collaborate and see this to fruition because it is a basic necessity that all should be afforded,” said Higdon.  

Higdon grew up on the reservation, where many families face the same challenges as those in Westwater.  

“We’re having to come up with unique ways to design the water line,” said Higdon. “We’re up against some archaeological sites.”  

The artesian well is one of those sites that residents hope to preserve.  

President Chee takes project managers to artesian well, an archeological site he hopes to protect. (Erin Cox, KSL TV)

President Chee takes project managers to artesian well, an archeological site he hopes to protect. (Erin Cox, KSL TV)

Current plans show Blanding annexing and claiming the spot, but when Chee took project managers to the well, he explained that water has sacred significance to their people.  

“You can take water, but you can also leave behind whatever is bothering you, whatever is ailing you,” Clayton Long, a mentor at Utah State University in Blanding 

“The water is like a healer,” Long said.

Sunset over Westwater community. (Erin Cox, KSL TV)

Sunset over Westwater community. (Erin Cox, KSL TV)

KSL 5 TV Live

Utah's Water

Journalists and water experts raft down the Moab Daily section of the Colorado River with Holiday R...

Carter Williams, KSL.com

The Colorado River is vital in Utah. Here’s why it’s going to get even more publicity

The Colorado River plays an important role in Utah and across the West. KSL TV is participating in a new collaborative to report on the issues tied to its future.

23 days ago

The Dry Wash area where the Washington County Water Conservancy is planning to build a new reservoi...

Alex Cabrero

Ivins residents are concerned about location of planned water reservoir

Some residents in the Ivins area are worried that new water reservoir would ruin an outdoor space everyone enjoys.

28 days ago

The Bear River pictured on April 24, 2024. On the topic of the Bear River's resources for water in ...

Mike Anderson and Mary Culbertson, KSL TV

‘Sacrifices’ will need to be made from Bear River water supply to help Great Salt Lake

With the Bear River serving so many different purposes in the state of Utah, agricultural producers are trying to make sure their uses for the river aren't forgotten as lawmakers discuss the preservation of the Great Salt Lake.

29 days ago

A new state-of-the-art water treatment plant will eventually provide Utah Lake with a big boost. (D...

Dan Rascon

New water treatment plant will improve water heading for Utah Lake

 A new state-of-the-art water treatment plant will eventually provide Utah Lake with a big boost.

1 month ago

An example of algal blooms. (BlueGreen Water Technologies)...

Mike Anderson

New tool for algal bloom mitigation is making breakthrough results in Utah, scientists say

Scientists are testing a new tool that aims to help suppress algal blooms in bodies of water, and experts say the tool is seeing breakthrough results.

1 month ago

The Willard Spillway sending water to the Great Salt Lake....

Mike Anderson and Michael Houck, KSL TV

Large amounts of water sent to Great Salt Lake ahead of spring runoff

While Utah did not have a record water year this year, water managers say there is so much water that some is being sent into the Great Salt Lake.

1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 Internet Safety Tips for Kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Water project to bring running water to southern Utah community for the first time