Gunlock Reservoir Utah

Kayenta’s Liquid Asset

There’s an old saying “thousands have lived without love, but not one without water”.  Those of us who have chosen to live among the stunning natural beauty of southern Utah are well aware of the scarce and precious nature of water in the desert.  Some of the questions we get here at Kayenta Homes & Properties most frequently from prospective buyers are focused around water.  Who is responsible for supplying water to Kayenta homes?  What is the source of our water?  What’s the quality of Kayenta water and, perhaps most importantly, just how secure is it? If you’ve ever wondered about these questions yourself, read on!

First things first.  Did you know that most but not all of the homes and lots in Kayenta receive their water from Kayenta Water Users (or “KWU”)?  This includes all of the Willow Springs, Shonto, and Posovi areas as well as a portion of Taviawk (generally, the area north of Paiute and then north and west of Shinava).  Note:  Please visit us in the Kayenta Homes & Properties office if you’d like more information.  The rest of Taviawk is serviced by Ivins City.  So why is this the case?

Back in 1976, when land parcels which would eventually be incorporated into today’s Kayenta were being acquired, this land fell outside of the Ivins city limits.  Though Washington County recommended that the area comprising future Kayenta become part of Ivins, the city wasn’t in a position to be able to provide water beyond its then existing boundaries.

As a result, Kayenta Development Inc. (KDI) needed to seek potable water in order for Kayenta to be developed.  Eventually, it secured rights from two wells located in the Anasazi Valley (just south of Highway 91 near the Santa Clara River) to provide for its current and projected future water needs.  Initially, these rights were acquired from Floyd Ence, Ltd, who sold those rights at a later date to the Washington County Water Conservancy District (WCWCD). 

For the past 37 years, these two wells have been providing up to 350 gallons of water per minute (that’s 180 million gallons per year!) to our community.  One of KWU’s first acts was to create a steel water tank in 1978 (still in use today) to provide water to approximately 1,300 acres at the base of Kayenta’s red cliffs.  (Note:  For those Kayenta residents in Taviawk served by Ivins City, their water supply comes from a variety of sources, including the Quail Creek Water Treatment Plant and wells in Gunlock, Sand Hollow, and Snow Canyon).

As the years progressed, the entire Dixie region began experiencing a significant population boom, and an ever-expanding Ivins expressed a strong interest in acquiring KWU’s water rights in order to satisfy its unquenchable thirst.  In response and in order to permanently secure Kayenta’s access to a secure water source, KWU solicited the Utah Public Service Commission for a “certificate of convenience and necessity”, thereby allowing it to continue to provide water service to the Kayenta community.  In exchange, KWU was required to agree that the project will not conflict with or adversely affect the operations of any existing public utility (i.e., Ivins City) which supplies the same product or service.  As a result, KWU is one of only two water systems in Washington Country (other than municipalities) authorized to serve the public.

In March 2001, KDI became aware that the 830 acre DI Ranch, located about 25 miles west of St. George on the East Fork of the Beaver Dam Wash, was for sale.  (The ranch has a fascinating lore surrounding it, from purportedly being an ancient sacred spot to Mormons to more substantiated rumors of its ties to the Las Vegas mafia in more recent times).  RT Marten acquired the ranch as much for its water rights as anything else…increasing access of up to 200 million additional gallons of water per year, if and when needed.  (Fun fact:  Each of the estimated 370 Kayenta homes currently served by KWU consumes an average of 130,000 gallons of water per year).  Since its not currently needed, the DI Ranch water rights continue to be used to irrigate and nourish large alfalfa fields located on the ranch.  Perhaps at some point in the future, a 20 mile pipeline will be built to bring this water to thirsty customers in Kayenta and beyond.  Stay tuned.

Regardless of whether your Kayenta home is being served by KWU or Ivins City, you can rest assured that, according to the most recent water quality reports for 2018, your drinking water meets and exceeds all requirements of the Utah Safe Drinking Water Act and the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act.  (Please feel free to stop by Kayenta Homes & Properties if you’re interested in a copy of one or both of these reports).

In summary, though located in a harsh, dry climate at the edge of the Mojave Desert, Kayenta homeowners have access to ample, secure, and quality water resources and will continue to do so well into the future.  It’s certainly information that we enjoy sharing at Kayenta Homes & Properties when prospective buyers enter our office.