Last year was a bad year for our water supply here in Utah. It wasn’t the first bad year and, thanks to climate change, it seems reasonable to assume it won’t be the last.
NOAA data shows we are seeing more “extremely hot” days per year, as well as more “very warm” nights. Our annual snow-water equivalent levels are on a downward trend, as is the annual average water level in the Great Salt Lake, as are the annual precipitation totals.
We live in the high desert. Our snowpack is our water supply. We can’t “borrow” water from locations higher upstream than us, because we are the top of the stream.
Utahns might be getting more “water wise,” we might be “slowing the flow” and conserving more water per person, but unchecked population growth is far outstripping the savings made by individuals and families.
According to state water data, Utah consumed just shy of 790,000 acre-feet of water in 2015. In 2018 that has escalated to more than 870,000 — an increase in water use of 10% in four years.
We continue to make it attractive for people to move here from out of state. We keep building apartments. We keep inviting water-wasting industries and warehouses into our state. The inland port, the NSA data center, Amazon — all those facilities use (or will use) industrial evaporative water chillers to cool their facilities. These waste astronomical amounts of water every day.
Chasing tax revenue and financial growth might have been “the way of things” decades ago, but having all the tax revenue in the world isn’t going to do Utah any good when we run out of water.
Water shortage riots are a thing. You should look them up if you’re unfamiliar. They make last year’s BLM and political protests look quaint.
It concerns me that state and local leaders appear not to have a plan for our growing water crisis and instead appear to be burying their heads in the sand. This is unfortunate because pessimistically we could run into water shortages as soon as 2025, and optimistically in 2035.
And at that point, sand will be all we have left.
Chris Longhurst, Salt Lake City