On my morning runs, I often find myself giving thanks to all of the snowmelt flowing down the streets, into the ground, and to our rivers, because this is the water that will sustain us--both our growing population and our economy. Without water, there is no life.
Since Utah's settlement, when our pioneer ancestors made the desert "blossom as the rose," water has played an essential role in our state's development. These first non-native settlers placed dams on streams and built large irrigation canals to feed their crops, and they worked toward a common goal--maintaining their grand vision even through the most difficult times.
Difficult times are once again upon us and in order to maintain our quality of life and economic competitiveness, we need a grand vision that we can all work towards together.
Just last year, Utah recorded its driest year on record, precipitation levels were the lowest recorded since 1895. Not only was it dry but it was hot--2018 was Utah's second-warmest year on record. Several counties declared drought disasters prompting Governor Herbert to declare a statewide emergency. The declaration helped those farmers and industries severely impacted by the drought, but it did little to aid the state's severely depleted reservoirs, the disappearing streams, or the waters impacted by toxic algae blooms.
And while this year's snowfall has helped pull Utah out of its severe drought--currently 3.25 percent of our state is in a moderate drought compared to last year's totals of 99.96 percent--its yet to be seen if our state reservoirs will fully recover.
Lake Powell, one of the two main lakes feeding the Colorado River, provides drinking water to some 40 million people, and yet remains more than 42 feet below last year's totals. State hydrologists warn that one good winter does not mean Utah's 19-year drought is over.
Mother Nature's unpredictable swings and the increasing threats of climate change, paired with institutional constraints and population growth likely means Utah's water supply will continue to be stretched as supply decreases and demand increases. For this reason, significant changes in policy, planning, and management are necessary to ensure Utah's water future. Thankfully, both our state and federal leaders are heeding the call.
Last month, Utah's federal delegation unanimously voted in favor...