The claim that Utah is running out of water is a myth. Here’s why.
Despite what Utah water salesmen claim, the sky isn’t falling.
Scores of news stories rush to conclude Utah is running out of water—which is easy to believe when you hear that Utah’s population will double in coming decades. That argument is misleading because even with twice the population, Utah’s municipal water supply is simply not at risk.
Farming and ranching account for about 85% of Utah’s water use, while indoor use by residents (a water need) consumes a mere 3%. In other words, even if our population doubled, our indoor water needs would still only amount to 6% of Utah’s total water use—hardly a water crisis.
The majority of water in Utah’s cities is used to water—and overwater—grass. Outdoor lawn watering in our cities by businesses, residents and government institutions accounts for 6 – 8% of Utah’s total water use. Much of this amount is considered waste because people water sidewalks, driveways and streets; water during rainstorms; turn their water on too early in the spring; or water in the heat of the day (when most of the water evaporates). This watering includes the flood irrigation of grass by canal systems which are often unmetered, meaning that for $30 per year, one can dump several feet of water at a time on their grass.
By simply being smarter about how we water our lawns, it is widely estimated that we could reduce our outdoor water use by at least 25% without removing a single blade of grass—or diverting more water from our precious rivers and lakes.
Still Not Convinced? Check out “A Performance Audit of Projections of Utah’s Water Needs,” at: https://le.utah.gov/audit/ad_2015dl.htm
Far from running out, Utah’s municipal water supply is actually growing.
Not only is Utah NOT running out of municipal water, the state’s municipal water supply is increasing. As Utah continues to pave its irrigated farmland (at the rate of 30 acres per day according to the American Farmland Trust), the water no longer being used to water crops can be transferred to new uses.
This growth in supply has not been reported to state decision-makers. Additionally, state legislative auditors concluded that state water planners have consistently underestimated the total amount of agricultural water available to be converted to municipal uses—presumably to justify more taxpayer spending on water development projects.
Don’t be scared into a bad idea
The simple truth is that it’s easy to scare people into spending money by claiming there is a water crisis. Yet many western communities have grown in population without increasing their total water use, a fact Utah water salesmen ignore.
Instead these salesmen are proposing to spend billions of taxpayer dollars on unnecessary river diversions like the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline and Bear River Project for a water crisis that doesn’t exist. These expensive and destructive water projects are simply bad ideas that will benefit a few water salesmen while burdening generations of Utahns with debt—not to mention the impacts on rivers and the precious ecosystems they support.
Don’t give in to these scare tactics.
Get involved Help us keep protect our rivers and lakes.