Opinion— Running Dry: Frivolous Water Usage and Uncertainty on the Wasatch Front

Walking along the winding avenues and seemingly endless parallels of Salt Lake City during the summer months is cathartic, and even blissful for the appreciative observer. Sprawling gardens and lawns come to life in technicolor splendor as careless homeowners and local businesses nurture their holdings in spite of the oppressive heat; the desert is in full bloom. Radiance however, comes at a price.

A bidecadal study conducted by the United States Geological Survey indicates that the average Utahn uses 248 gallons of water each day, a disheartening statistic comparatively greater than any other state in the nation. In 2010, Salt Lake County alone consumed over 300 million gallons of water per day. Currently, Utah is the single largest water waster in the U.S.

More alarming yet are the mounting projections that Utah’s population is to double by 2050—with an additional 2.5 million people to the 2.9 million currently inhabiting the high desert state. Our rate of consumption at present is hardly sustainable; how is the state to compensate for this unprecedented growth?

The rising global temperature — despite what many proponents of ignorance would have you believe — is undeniable. These increases are resulting in a dramatic reduction in mountain snowpack levels, particularly in western states. EPA researchers noted “large and consistent decreases observed throughout the western United States… the average change across all sites [amounting] to about a 23 percent decline”. Inhabitants of the Wasatch Front are heavily reliant upon snowpack as a source of drinking water and serve to suffer most as these levels continue to diminish.

Local conservationists and lawmakers are well aware of the uncertain future of Utah’s water sources and recognize the looming potential of a mega-draught similar to that currently ensuing in California. Multiple questionable initiatives have been proposed, from the halfhearted “Prepare60” that intends to address the problem by developing Utah’s water delivery systems and infrastructure, to more radical approaches that involve actions like drilling into our state’s groundwater or diverting resources from Lake Powell. Yes, these initiatives are just as environmentally irresponsible as they sound.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that with increasing global temperatures, booming population growth, and decreasing snowpack levels that action needs to be taken to preserve Utah’s status as an inhabitable chunk of desert, though the responsible course of action may not be appealing to many. Rather than looking towards new sources to compensate for our superfluous water usage, we should focus primarily on preserving the water we already have as its perceived abundance diminishes with catastrophic climate change and rising consumption.

So, where to begin? Here are just a few ideas:

· Water-pricing based upon individual use to discourage wasteful practices.

· Tax rebates for businesses and homes that use environmentally friendly appliances and methods.

· Additional regulations barring excessive water use during temperate seasons.

· Transition to regionally-adapted plants that are known to use less water.

· Regulation of the agricultural industry’s excessive water use.

· Public service campaigns providing helpful tips and methods for conserving water.

It is understandable that Utahns derive a great degree of pride from maintaining beautiful yards and lush ornamental features in such a dry, inhospitable climate, but if our state is to remain an inhabitable place, the state’s population as a whole must reduce its overall water usage dramatically.


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Hit The Waves And Try Some Water Sports

Summer is a time for late-night campfires with s’mores, endless hiking and mountain biking trips, and fireworks. But there’s one question everyone has to deal with: How do you combat the intense heat? For this, there is nothing better than getting out on the lake and enjoying some refreshing water.

There are many ways to enjoy the waters of Utah this summer, but my favorites are boating and water skiing. If you thoroughly enjoy the thrills of the winter sports in this state, particularly skiing and snowboarding, then you will have an effortless transition from the frozen world to the world of water.

The hardest part about water skiing is getting up. As the boat quickly accelerates, it might be an unfamiliar feeling because you are no longer in control of the forward motion of your body — however, once you discover how to harness the power of the boat, it’s just like hitting the slopes.

It will take multiple times being dragged around the lake — and, more often than not, swallowing lake water — until you learn to stand. But don’t give up. More importantly, once you finally do get up, don’t forget to adjust your body as you start picking up speed.

I remember the first time I went water skiing. When I finally got up, I forgot what I was doing in all the excitement and celebration. I instantly caught an edge and lost my skis as I was dragged behind the boat, still holding on to the rope. Learn from my mistake. Once on your skis and moving along the lake, move in and out of the wake, take wide turns and carve on your edges — figure out what your limits are. Most importantly, have fun with this new sport.

If you figure out quickly that water skiing just isn’t for you, give tubing a try. Get ready to hold on for dear life as the boat driver does their best to whip you off. The more people you have on a tube at once, the better. It just makes the experience and memories that much more enjoyable as you try to be the last man standing. Some of my most favorite memories while tubing are seeing my friends taking flight after hitting a huge wave. Make sure you are wearing your life jacket, though, because as the old saying goes, “It’s always fun until someone gets hurt.”

Living in Salt Lake City, there are several places to go throughout the summer that are really close to home. One of the closest lakes is at East Canyon State Park. It is about a 45-minute drive from the base of Emigration Canyon and over the top of Big Mountain. Although it is a smaller body of water, it is conveniently located.

Another great place to go to is Jordanelle Reservoir, which is about a 30-minute drive from the bottom of Parley’s Canyon heading up past Park City on your way toward Heber. If you have a couple days to spend a weekend at a lake, I would recommend going to Lake Powell. There are so many places to explore along the coastline of the lake that you will keep coming back for more. It is truly a beautiful body of water that provides a pleasant change of scenery compared to the other lakes in Utah.


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