Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Utah Water Summit; The Next Steps

Thanks to Women of Water President, Christina Osborn, for writing this month's blog article!  This article summarizes the efforts taken by the Utah Water Summit and highlights the many challenges Utahans face when managing water our supply.

Last fall, at Utah Valley University, Governor Gary Herbert convened a Water Summit that served as a culmination of efforts to explore Utah’s water strategy for the next 50 years.  The cornerstone of the efforts were a series of eight listening sessions/town hall meetings that were held around the state.  More than 800 comments were collected during the sessions.  The two hour sessions/town hall meetings were held in Richfield, Layton, Price, Provo, St. George, Vernal, Salt Lake City, and Logan.  Governor Herbert assembled a six member panel of experts to advise him, led by  Dennis Strong (Division of Water Resources Director).  The members of the panel and their areas of expertise include:

Tage Flint: Weber Basin Water Conservancy District general manager/municipal water delivery;
Timothy Hawkes: Trout Unlimited, water and the environment;
Voneene Jorgensen: Bear River Water Conservancy District general manager, competition for water;
Bob Morgan: Former state engineer, water law;
Warren Peterson: water lawyer, future of agriculture; and
Dennis Strong: Division of Water Resources director, financing water infrastructure

Each team member submitted a paper detailing the challenges in managing Utah’s water supplies into the future as well as summaries of some of the more dominant themes that emerged in feedback from the public.  Some of the highlights from the papers include (provided by Deseret News):

Most of the Wasatch Front urban infrastructure was built starting in the 1940s and is now experiencing the first period of large-scale replacement needs.

"In fact, water purveyors are now dealing with the reality that over the next 50 years, replacement costs will rival new capacity construction costs," wrote Tage Flint, "Statewide costs for repair and replacement of existing infrastructure will exceed $16 billion between now and 2060."

The governor's goal to conserve water by 25 percent by 2025 should be mandatory.

"From an angler's perspective, a reduced stream flow and fewer fish is one thing. A dry stream bed with no fish is something else entirely," wrote Timothy Hawkes. "Water clearly touches almost a spiritual chord in people and helps define a sense of place and one's attachment to a place," evidenced by comments made by people detailing memories of certain water bodies.

Multiple water development projects, such as the Lake Powell pipeline, the proposed Gooseberry Narrows Dam and the Southern Nevada Water Authority's groundwater pumping plan, elicited strong public reaction, as did the proposed diversion of 53,600 acre-feet of water for a twin reactor nuclear power plant.

Develop a joint operating agreement for the reservoirs in the Weber River watershed.

Explore additional freshwater storage options in or around the Great Salt Lake.

"The people of this state are very sincere, very concerned and very passionate about the preservation of water as our most precious natural resource," wrote Voneene Jorgensen.

In her paper, Jorgensen noted the following public comments:
o Development of storage reservoirs and implementation of water banks may be viable solutions to the impacts of climate change and are worthy of discussion.
o The state needs to stop encouraging more industry, businesses and people to come to the state that will strain or deplete the water supply.
o Population growth is a problem. Slow the growth.

Voneene Jorgensen will be discussing the Utah Water Summit and the town hall meetings that were held last summer on April 9th. Learn about what strategies the State is developing to maintain our water for the future!

To read more about the Utah Water Summit, click here! 

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