Water Usage Has Gone Up At Secretive FLDS Compound — What Does That Mean?

Locals are concerned that FLDS sect members have secretly moved in.

Turning on or shutting off an outdoor water faucet
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Locals are concerned that FLDS sect members have secretly moved in.

A compound owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) in South Dakota has seen a record high in water usage in 2018. This has led to the speculation that there are a lot more people present on site than originally estimated.

According to Rapid City Journal, it was believed that the compound in South Dakota had declined in recent years and did not hold a significant number of people living there. However, reported usage of 13.63 million gallons of water last year now indicates there are many more people present on site than expected. The water increase is up 61 percent from 8.45 million gallons in 2017, which, even if there has not been an influx of residents in the last year, indicates something has changed on location.

Rapid City Journal reports that water records are the “only publicly available indications of the compound’s population.” Details of the compound’s water usage are submitted every year by the FLDS compound to South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources as part of their deal regarding water use permits.

Karl Von Rump, who lives near the 140-acre FLDS compound, was surprised at the figure for 2018.

“That’s a lot more than I expected,” he said.

Von Rump also revealed that due to a lack of visual activity on the compound recently, there was an estimated guess of roughly only 10 people living on the FLDS site. Previously, rumors had indicated that hundreds of people used to populate the site.

Based on the assumption of the average daily consumption and usage per person of 80 to 100 gallons of water per day, it is estimated that there were approximately 373 to 467 people at the FLDS compound in 2018.

This compound is potentially associated with the FLDS homeland of Short Creek, which is on the border of Arizona and Utah. When the FLDS leader, Warren Jeffs, was sent to prison for a lifelong sentence in Texas for sexually assaulting underage girls, the original compound dispersed into other compounds spread out across the country. Currently, Seth Jeffs, a brother of Warren Jeffs, is listed as the registered operator of the compound’s water system. So, some people are suggesting that members from other compounds have secretly moved to this location in South Dakota.

However, there is another possibility regarding the high water usage. When contacted by Rapid City Journal, Seth Jeffs stated that the high water usage was for irrigation. Aerial views of the compound have revealed extensive garden systems on site. So, the water could be driven to irrigation of these gardens rather than to human consumption, especially considering potential drought conditions. However, drought indicators have not been present in this location during that timeframe.