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Utah Water Report Completed, Hard Choices Coming Up

Judy Fahys
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert accepts advise from his Water Strategy Task Force on key issues to key in mind when considering Utah's water future. He says foremost is making sure that Utah has enough water resources to continue to grow.

Utah’s water strategy has been years in the making.

And dozens of people with wide-ranging backgrounds have been sorting through the question: How is Utah going to maintain its quality of life, a healthy environment and a robust economy when water is limited and the population continues to grow?

A blue-ribbon panel presented a long to-do list Wednesday for keeping the water flowing in Utah. But that’s just the beginning of deciding what should happen next.

“There is no silver-bullet solution,” said Rep. Timothy Hawkes, a Republican lawmaker representing Davis County, who was also a task force leader.

“And the future will force us to make hard choices and become ever more careful in the way we conserve and allocate precious water resources.”

The report says we need to use water more efficiently in homes, farms and businesses and to conserve it better. And higher water costs are almost certain.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) organized the panel to include different – and sometimes conflicting – points of view. He praised task force members for thrashing through some touchy issues, including climate change, but coming together to suggest a path forward.

“We’re talking 50 years plus into the future,” Herbert said at a news conference where he accepted the task force report. “So, it’s not necessarily going to be easy.”

Should agriculture get a bigger share? Or cities? Are big, expensive water projects like the Lake Powell Pipeline needed? If yes, when, and who’s paying?

Herbert’s next step is drafting a priority list.

“The challenges we face are real,” he said. “They are significant. Tough choices are going to be a part of that, but those are tough choices we can make.”

The final water strategy report is posted on the Envision Utah web page.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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