July 2017 Recommended State Water Strategy 

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“We’re talking about the need to be nimble and adaptive, practical and proactive in our approach. We need to evaluate the future of water planning and its relevance to land use and economic planning so that it’s cohesive and resilient in the scheme of sustainability thinking for Utah’s population and our precious natural systems that includes Great Salt Lake.” 

        -Joanna Endter-Wada, USU and Advisory Team cohort.

With an eye on the projected doubling of Utah’s population by 2060 and how to reconcile this with managing the state’s water resources, in 2013 Governor Herbert initiated a 50-Year State Water Strategy. The strategy is supposed to “define priorities, inform water policy, and chart a path to maintaining and constructing needed infrastructure without breaking the bank or drying up our streams.”

Forty one of members of the Advisory Team, including FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake Executive Director Lynn DeFreitas, were tasked by the Governor to “(1) solicit and evaluate potential water management strategies; (2) frame various water management options and implications of those options for public feedback; and (3) based on broad input develop a set of recommended strategies and ideas to be considered a part of the 50-yr water plan.”

The Recommended State Water Strategy is the result of respectful and robust debate among team members working in small groups to identify the issues and recommendations that support the policy questions in the strategy. 

The Recommended State Water Strategy focuses on 12 key policy questions and you can read the July 2017 Recommended State Water Strategy Here.

Photo: FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake Executive Director, Lynn de Freitas and the State Water Strategy Team after presenting the Strategy to Governor Herbert, July 2017. 

Past Stories

Rep. Tim Hawkes' presentation to American Water Resources Association

In January of 2018, Utah House of Representatives member, Tim Hawkes, offered a presentation, "Meeting Utah's Environmental Water Needs," to the American Water Resources Association. To view his presentation, click here.


Report to Utah Legislature - A Performance Audit of Projections of Utah's Water Needs May 2015

2015 Utah Water Audit

A Legislative Audit to determine the reliability of the Utah Division of Water Resources data and assess the accuracy of its projections of water demand and supply to address projected water needs of Utah’s growing population by 2060 was released in May 2015. The audit lists a passel of things that need to be addressed to provide a more accurate picture of Utah’s water supply and needs. It also indicates that any shortfall in the water supply by 2060 could be filled from current sources with agricultural water conversions and more efficient water use without the need to develop 200,000 acre feet/annually of Bear River water. 

You can read the entire audit here.

2015 Water Audit_.pdf

Proposed Bear River Development

Proposed Bear River Development

The State of Utah’s Bear River Development Project proposes to dam the Bear River to order to supply municipal water to the Wasatch Front. Estimated at $2 billion dollars, the project is proposed to divert 220,000 acre feet of water away from the Bear River, which in turn will significantly lower the water level of Great Salt Lake. Great Salt Lake receives approximately 60 percent of its water from the Bear River. 

The Bear River Development Project is of concern to FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake because lowering the water level of Great Salt Lake has major implications for Great Salt Lake’s wetlands, migratory birds, and air quality. FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake is committed to supporting water supply alternatives to the Bear River Development Project. 

Bear River Commission Public Hearing

30 October 2017 Published in News & Events.

The Bear River Commission is undertaking a 20 year review of the Bear River Compact. A public hearing is scheduled for Thursday, November 2, 2017 at 7:00 PM at the Utah Department of Natural Resources (1594 West North Temple, Salt Lake City).  

In addition to the public hearing, the Commission encourages the public to provide written comments.  All written and e-mail comments must be received at the Commission’s office by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, December 4, 2017. 

Will Utah Dam the Bear River?

The Wasatch Front faces drier times and a growing population, threatening Great Salt Lake.

by Emily Benson of High Country News

Amid the wave of dams coming down across the nation, several places are bucking the trend. New dams have been proposed in California, Colorado, Utah and other Western states. The motivations behind the projects are complex, but in some cases the same fears drive dam defenders and detractors alike: a drier future and rising populations.

Utah is seeking additional water sources to address its growth. There, legislators decreed in 1991 that the Bear River, the Great Salt Lake’s largest tributary, should host a water development project. Two and a half decades later, scientists, policy experts, environmentalists, residents and water managers are still grappling with whether or not — and how — to move forward with damming the Bear.

The answers they come to will have consequences for the $1.3 billion generated each year by industries reliant on the Great Salt Lake. The lake’s ecology, its wetlands and the millions of migratory birds that depend on it are also at risk — as is the health of the more than 2 million people who live nearby and could breathe in harmful dust from a drying lakebed. Caught between the dire costs of construction and the specter of dwindling water supplies, the Bear River diversion forces uncomfortable questions. Does it make sense to build a new dam project, decades after the heyday of big dams is over? How do you decide?

Railroad Causeway Breach

Railroad Causeway Breach

The new Great Salt Lake breach was opened on December 1 by the Union Pacific Railroad Company. This created a new opening between the north and the south arm of the Lake, allowing water to flow between the two sides.

This time-lapse video shows the breach opening, which took about two hours.

Before the new breach was opened, the north arm of Great Salt Lake was at a historic low. Water had stopped flowing through the old Great Salt Lake causeway breach, preventing water travel between the southern and northern portions. Water levels in the south arm were approximately 3.3 feet higher than the north arm when the breach was opened.

The USGS is monitoring discharge through the new breach in cooperation with Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

The USGS provides real-time lake elevation readings for both the north arm (Click Here for North Arm Data) and south arm (Click Here for South Arm Data) of Great Salt Lake. These gauging stations will be a valuable resource to observe the water level changes as the two portions of the lake combine and even out.

The USGS maintains a record of Great Salt Lake elevations dating back to 1847 and has continuously measured the elevation of the lake since 1938.

Read More Here: Great Salt Lake Causeway Breach Concerns Mineral, Brine Shrimp Industries by Leia Larsen, Standard Examiner. 

Photos of the breach were taken by Dr. Wayne Wurtsbaugh.

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Why We Care

  • Great Salt Lake, the second most hypersaline Inland Sea in the world, has a fate of becoming even more salty with permanent loss of a large portion of its Bear River fresh water life supply.

    Precious fresh water diverted to support more of the same, the endless expansion of the human race, big box stores, and shopping centers duplicated around the country ruining any future adventure of small town exploration and road trips.

    Everything is becoming the same. Everyone is looking the same. Everyone does the same things. Great Salt Lake is unique and the planet is loosing it as its life blood is stolen from its soft salty shores, waves gently breaking further and further out, leaving vast arrays of dry barren mudflats waiting for phragmites to invade.

    Utah does not own Great Salt Lake. Great Salt Lake is owned by the world.

    Karri Smith, Alfred Lambourne Prize Participant