Appreciate articles on COVID and water conservancy


Appreciate articles on COVID

and water conservancy




Thank you for two outstanding stories in last week’s edition:  First, the heartbreaking account of the COVID-19 deaths and illnesses in Sanpete County and second, the investigation into the Central Utah Water Conservancy District.

Both stories made a tremendous contribution to our understanding of two crises facing Sanpete County: The alarming rise in COVID-19 cases and the continuing shortage of water.

Both stories raise questions in my mind.  With respect to COVID, your story documents that two Sanpete residents tragically died of the disease in October.  The Central Utah Public Health Department reports that as of Nov. 30, the total number of COVID deaths in Sanpete is three, while the total number of COVID cases is 1,216.  That means that the ratio of COVID deaths to COVID cases in Sanpete is much lower than the ratio for the U.S. or Utah.

Is our health department identifying every Sanpete resident who has been lost to COVID or are there some limitations in how COVID deaths are counted (such as attributing COVID deaths to secondary ailments like pneumonia or blood clots, or missing people who don’t die in hospitals)?  If the count is complete, what accounts for the county’s remarkably low death rate and can we bottle it?

Your story also explains that some Sanpete survivors of COVID have suffered serious health consequences. The health department’s official number of “recovered” doesn’t seem to convey this information. Is the health department keeping track of how many Sanpete survivors have ongoing health problems?

Sanpete County now has one of the highest rates of new COVID cases in Utah, potentially meaning more deaths and serious illnesses. How are our health officials responding?

As for the CUWCD story, it reports that the taxes paid by Sanpete County residents to the District have mostly come back to Sanpete in the form of agricultural irrigation projects. Do these projects mostly benefit county farmers or do residents also benefit by receiving more water?  County farms are an important part of our local economy, but Sanpete is one of the lowest income counties in the state. It would be helpful to know whether and how the taxes have been used to subsidize businesses.

The CUWCD story also reports that Sanpete County officials recently decided to stay in the District even though CUWCD hasn’t invested in a project here since 2013 and isn’t likely to any time soon. We are told that by continuing to pay taxes to the District, we will get technical help with a much-needed Sanpete water project. Are we getting good value for the nearly $675,000 in annual taxes we pay to the District? Could independent consultants provide the help for less?

We appreciate all the hard work that Sanpete County’s health and other officials are doing to help keep us safe and our future bright. We also appreciate the Messenger’s reporting that helps us understand what local governments are doing for us.

A safe and happy holidays to you!


Nancy Ketcham-Colwill,

Mt. Pleasant