Cox promotes bills aimed at water conservation and saving the Great Salt Lake

The lake is still six feet below what is considered healthy.

(Courtesy of Fox13) “If this is just a respite in a prolonged drought, then we need to use that respite in a big way,” Cox told FOX 13 News.

In a wetland on the shores of the Great Salt Lake, Governor Spencer Cox held a bill signing ceremony to draw attention to laws designed to conserve water and protect the lake.

On Tuesday, the governor said the good news is that the state is mired in a 7% drought and lake levels have risen thanks to staggering snowpack. Now the state is on the alert for floods.

“What we’ve been doing is draining water from reservoirs during this cold time,” he said, adding that it allows the state to prepare for when the snow starts to melt.

But Gov. Cox said the slowly rising temperatures have been good so far, “when we start getting into the ’80s, mid-’80s in northern Utah, it’s going to get hot.”

The Great Salt Lake rose nearly four feet on Monday. But it’s still six feet below what’s considered healthy. But Gov. Cox said laws like the ones he drew attention to are meant to help Utah in the long run.

“If this is just a lull in a prolonged drought, then we need to take advantage of that lull in a big way,” he told FOX 13 News.

The bills include the creation of a “Great Salt Lake Czar” to oversee efforts to save the lake. There’s $200 million to help agricultural producers — the state’s biggest water consumers — switch to water-saving technologies. It will help a lot, said Ron Gibson, chief of the Utah Farm Bureau, which represents the state’s agricultural producers

“Water farming infrastructure is ancient in our state,” he told FOX 13 News. “It’s time we invested in the future of agriculture, the future of Utah.”

The governor also signed legislation creating a new public awareness campaign called “Utah Water Ways” focused on conservation. He even signed bills to create a special Great Salt Lake license plate as a fundraiser to save the water and a bill that elementary school students championed to make artemia the official state crustacean.

“We hope it will create more awareness so people are using less and less water so we can put more water into the Great Salt Lake,” said sixth grader Max Bridge.

There are also laws in place to expand incentives to persuade Utahns to ditch non-working lawns in their yards in favor of desert-friendly landscaping, and prohibit HOAs from requiring lush, green lawns.

“We’ve changed forever the way we incentivized people to use water, using water too much, now there’s an incentive to use less water. It’s a big deal,” Gov. Cox said.

Candice Hasenyager, the chief of Utah’s water resources department, said any legislation will help.

“When we look at the bigger picture, it’s really important to reduce water use across all sectors and conserve it for a variety of uses, including Great Salt Lake,” she said.

This article is published by the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that brings together news, education and media organizations to educate people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake — and what can be done to help make a difference before it’s too late. Read all of our stories below

Justin Scaccy

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