SALT LAKE CITY, UT. - The Great Salt Lake in Utah is facing dire straits, with the state in a severe drought and water levels dropping significantly. However, local leaders are taking action to save the lake, providing ecological and economic benefits and jobs to the surrounding areas.
Governor Spencer Cox, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, and Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall mentioned the lake's importance in their annual addresses this month. The lake's decline has exposed areas nearby to toxic dust plumes and other potential issues. Additionally, it contributes more than $1.3 billion and 7,700 jobs annually to the local economy.
In her address Tuesday night, Mendenhall called on the Salt Lake City Council to adopt a thorough review of all water usage within the city to determine any inefficiencies and implement a temporary drought surcharge for major water consumers to discourage wastefulness. The prices of this surcharge would be adjusted depending on the severity of the drought conditions; when conditions improve, prices can go down, and vice versa when conditions worsen.
In her address, she also authorized 13 billion gallons of reclaimed water to be sent directly into the Great Salt Lake each year; however, this amount is still only one-thirtieth of what was lost from last year's deficit at present.
Mendenhall said, "The disappearance of the Great Salt Lake is not something that's just happening to us; it's something that is largely due to us and because of climate change."
But, she continued, "Utahns are not victims or passive observers; we must take responsibility for our choices and take bold action now."
Other governments are likewise looking into ways to reduce their water usage too; last year, some bills related to water conservation were approved, including an allocation of $40 million for a new Great Salt Lake Water Trust program.
Governor Cox also touched on this issue during his State of the State address last week, calling on legislators for hundreds of millions in funding for new conservation programs and policies that would lower per capita water consumption throughout Utah. He added that it is crucial for people of faith to come together and ask God for relief from the current drought while recognizing that humans must ultimately do their part too.
The resolution laid out by Utah's leaders does not include any specific timeline for reaching its goal, though Blouin said he wants it done "as soon as possible." It is being endorsed by them and the non-profit organization Utah Rivers Council, which promotes increased water conservation efforts across states. Zach Frankel, executive director of URC, notes,
We [Utahns] have been given the responsibility to steward for rest of America ...the largest remaining wetland ecosystem in American West."
He went on further to say, "It is a big responsibility we have protect it." Overall this resolution would ensure proper management and use practices towards its precious resources while preserving its wetland ecosystems around America's Western region.
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