ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4) – The Washington County Water Conservancy District is looking to expand its water resources with hopes to check underground, but some water owners and conservationists don’t want them to start drilling.

The water district wants to tap into underground wells along the Hurricane Fault Line which runs south of Cedar City toward the Grand Canyon, as Southern Utah continues to see dramatic growth.

“There’s been a lot of speculation for years, that there could be some untapped water in some deep down aquifers and there have been multiple studies done that suggest that,” says Zachary Renstrom, the General Manager for the Washington County Water Conservancy District.

Renstrom says they submitted an application to the state engineer with plans to drill 18 wells to search for water, but some water rights owners and conservationists have concerns.

“Not much is known about these deep aquifers, their connectivity to shallow aquafers, and to other water features in the basin,” says Ed Andrechak, the Water Program Manager for Conserve Southwest Utah.

Many farmers and ranchers worry the wells, if approved, may drain the aquafers connected to their water rights, and entities like Kanarraville, New Harmony and Conserve Southwest Utah are protesting the district’s request.

“What if those deep aquifers are ancient, ancient water as we like to say, that took 1,000 years to fill them given the rainfall that we have in the desert and if they deplete them and there’s no recharge or there’s insufficient recharge and eventually they will be depleting and it would take another 1,000 years in the worst case for them to recharge,” says Andrechak.

“The state engineer has already said that the burden is on the district to prove that we won’t affect anybody’s existing water rights, which I agree with, it’s the way it should be,” says Renstrom.

Renstrom says the request to drill wells is to run tests to ensure water security as officials are expecting a delay with the Lake Powell Pipeline as it’s running at historically low levels.