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Cox urges conservation even in great water years

By Ben Winslow - Fox 13 | May 19, 2024

Rob Nielsen, Standard-Examiner

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox addresses the audience during a ceremonial bill-signing event at the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve near Layton on Tuesday, April 25, 2023.

Editor’s note: This article is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that partners news, education and media organizations to help inform people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake — and what can be done to make a difference before it is too late. Read all of our stories at greatsaltlakenews.org.

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Spencer Cox urged Utahns to continue to conserve water, even in years when snowpack seems plentiful.

“Keep conserving. It’s actually working,” the governor told reporters at his monthly news conference on PBS Utah. “We’ve had a good water year. We’re well ahead of where we would have been otherwise because people conserved last year in what was a record water year.”

Utah’s reservoirs are at 90% capacity, which is remarkable headed into a season with what could see above-average temperatures. Conservation measures help keep those reservoirs full, providing water for Utah’s population.

Fuller reservoirs also allow more water to be sent to the Great Salt Lake as snowpack melts. The lake, which dropped to a historic low in 2022, has risen more than five feet now. It is still several feet below what is considered ecologically healthy.

Great Salt Lake Collaborative

But Gov. Cox said he was optimistic that we’ll go from a “very grave” situation to “just… bad.” A shrinking Great Salt Lake poses significant threats to public health, wildlife and Utah’s economy with toxic dust storms from an exposed lake bed (arsenic is among the minerals in it) and reduced snowpack (the lake generates a boost in winter storms in the form of “lake effect” snow).

Asked by FOX 13 News if he intended to reverse executive orders he issued that were designed to protect the lake now that we are seeing better conditions? The governor said no.

On Thursday, state officials were meeting with scientists as well as land, water and air managers to discuss the dust problem and ways to mitigate it. FOX 13 News first reported on the meeting last week.

Gov. Cox said the best way to mitigate the dust is to get more water in the Great Salt Lake.

“The way to use our resources that will help the most is to keep the lake full. That’s the cheapest and most ecologically, environmentally positive way to help with potential dust problems,” he said.

The governor also expressed optimism in Colorado River negotiations between Utah, the other states and Mexico.


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