Water conservation

Utah’s gnarly drought leads governor to release water action plan

Citing the extreme drought that suffocated Utah last summer, forcing residents to conserve water, Governor Spencer Cox released the first chapter of Utah’s Coordinated Water Action Plan on Thursday. “.

“Last year’s extreme drought conditions showed everyone in Utah the importance of water planning and conservation,” Cox said. “We have benefited from water storage decisions made by policy makers 100 years ago. Now is our turn to ensure water security for future generations and this plan will do that.

the plan leverages the expertise of multiple state agencies and draws on a list of more than 200 recommendations to protect the water supply in the nation’s fastest-growing state grappling with the challenges of new development in an increasingly arid climate.

Cox said the goal of the plan is to synthesize those recommendations and balance them against competing interests that include the needs of agriculture, growing cities and environmental concerns ranging from Lake Utah in peril to a Great Lake. Salty in decline.

Both challenges faced by these lakes pose public health concerns such as outbreaks of harmful algal blooms at Utah Lake and the exposed lake bed of the Great Salt Lake promoting toxin-laden windblown dust.

The effort is a collaboration between the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Environmental Quality, and the Department of Agriculture and Food.

The collaboration between these agencies demonstrates the need for a coordinated plan to adopt the most comprehensive strategies for a limited resource that is strained by the challenge of climate variability.

Last October, for example, was one of the wettest Octobers on record. November followed as the second driest on record.

Cox’s plan addresses a number of areas that are of growing concern, particularly worn-out infrastructure that needs replacing.

While distribution systems can be out of sight and out of mind for residents most of the time, last summer highlighted the need to conserve water, especially to ensure a steady supply at the tap.

Residents, cities, businesses and institutions have answered the call, but a summer of water savings won’t help Utah pull out of the drought.

Consider this: A US Geological Survey analysis said the Great Salt Lake was expected to rise four feet of water due to 20 years of drought. How much water is it? Approximately 2.5 million acre feet. An acre-foot of water is enough to flood a football field one foot.

Cox’s plan underscores the urgency to prepare now and act now to adapt to large-scale water challenges.

“Storage reservoirs are at historic lows, harmful algal blooms are increasing, exceptionally dry soil moisture levels are reducing spring runoff, and the state’s drinking and agricultural water sources are growing. threatened,” he said.

The first “chapter” of Cox’s plan emphasizes the need to replace aging infrastructure to ensure a safe and reliable water supply for Utah residents.

“Today, Utahans are benefiting from historic investments in our state’s water infrastructure, which has facilitated the expansion of jobs, created new recreational opportunities and enabled the development of new neighborhoods. These aging facilities need significant capital investment and upgrades. As our community continues to grow, our new infrastructure needs also grow,” the plan states.

Other chapters to be published later this year examine a range of regulations in communities regarding park strips and landscaping, which make up the majority of municipal and industrial land use. water, as well as how to “optimize” agricultural water demand.