This is an archived article that was published on in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Conservatives love to lambast the practice of earmarking money for special projects. Last year, for example, House Republicans, led by tea party zealots such as Rep. Jason Chaffetz, voted in favor of a moratorium on earmarks. Republicans' zeal to condemn earmarks is surpassed only by their readiness to take them.

In the latest demonstration of Republican hypocrisy, the Utah Legislature's water task force has recommended earmarking 15 percent of future growth in sales tax revenue for building the Lake Powell Pipeline, a $1 billion pork barrel project designed to keep golf courses in St. George green for decades to come.

When the idea of the pipeline was originally proposed, our penny-pinching conservatives insisted that state loan guarantees for the pipeline would only be available if water delivered by the pipeline were purchased in advance.

The problem with that not unreasonable solution is that water from the pipeline will be outrageously expensive. Cash-strapped consumers aren't anxious to ante up for water that's worth its weight in gold.

The solution? You guessed it: an earmark. We'll be supporting golf course development in St. George through sales taxes.

The Legislature's hypocrisy and double-dealing on the funding of the pipeline isn't the only thing that honest, hard-working Utahns should object to.

The biggest objection is the sheer stupidity of the plan, for which future generations of Utah taxpayers will pay the price.

Outside Utah, there is great concern about the dependability of Colorado River water. According to climatologists, the Colorado is one of the most climate-threatened rivers in the world.

In 2008, Tim Barnett of the Scripps Institution wrote that under current conditions there is a 50 percent chance that live storage in both Lake Powell and Lake Mead will be a thing of the past by 2021. In other words, Lake Powell and Lake Mead disappear.

In a 2005 study in Nature, scientists ran multiple climate models to gauge the effect of climate change on mountain runoff, the chief source of water in the West.

This research revealed that 86-97 percent of the models agree on a 25 percent decline in runoff by mid-century. That translates directly into losses in Colorado River water.

Exacerbating actual declines in water is the fact that the Colorado is already oversubscribed and overused. There are more claimants than there is water.

Among those claimants are some of the country's biggest cities: Los Angeles, which gets 50 percent of its water from the Colorado, Phoenix, which gets 40 percent, and Las Vegas, which is entirely dependent on the river. As things tighten up on the Colorado, these downstream users will have a lot to say about how the river is used.

The water wars of the West are just beginning.

In the face of this reality, what Utah's hypocritical and shortsighted legislators propose is to bank on the Colorado for the future of southern Utah, which is like banking on Greece for financial prosperity. In real terms, the Colorado River bank has a debt load that will bring it down, but Utah legislators want to invest your money in it nonetheless. More importantly, they want to bet your life on it.

Right now, Washington County and Iron County do not use Colorado water. They meet their needs with local resources. This is the water equivalent of living within one's means.

The moment this is no longer possible, these counties step out on the plank. The moment they become dependent on Colorado River water, they sign their own death warrant.

Ed Firmage, Jr. is an environmental writer and outdoor photographer in Salt Lake City.