Utah’s Governor proclaims suspension of new water appropriations

Wildlife at the Great Salt Lake
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With Utah’s Great Salt Lake reaching new record lows, Gov. Spencer Cox issued a proclamation on November 3 that suspended new water appropriations within the Great Salt Lake Basin, including the Bear, Weber, and Jordan River basins and the body of the Great Salt Lake.

“Extreme drought, climate change and increased demand continue to threaten the Great Salt Lake,” said Gov. Cox. “We are united in our efforts to protect this critical resource and are taking action to ensure existing flows continue to benefit the lake. When conditions improve, the suspension can be lifted.”

The suspension allows for existing water rights and applications to be used and developed while promoting more efficient use of the existing supply.  The suspension pauses further appropriations of surface water and groundwater that are tributary to Great Salt Lake. It also provides an opportunity for some of the conservation measures proposed during the 2022 legislative session to be implemented while allowing time for additional research to be completed.

“This past legislative session, we approved $40 million for Great Salt Lake restoration,” said Senate President J. Stuart Adams. “This was part of a historic investment that allocated nearly $500 million to water infrastructure, planning and management, effectively changing decades of major water policy in Utah. We are committed to doing more to preserve and protect this critical resource.”

A declining Great Salt Lake has far-reaching consequences and could result in increased dust, worsening air quality, reduced snow, diminished lake access, increased salinity, habitat loss and negative economic repercussions to the state. “By protecting the lake, we help our economy, environment, wildlife and future,” said Gov. Cox.

With water supply already over appropriated, the Salt Lake Tribune voiced skepticism over the effect of the proclamation, noting that in times of drought and shortage, junior water right holders do not get to divert water anyway because available supply goes to senior right holders.

If there is good news, the state’s website notes that lake elevation is starting to stabilize now that temperatures are dropping, storms are moving in, and irrigation has concluded for the season. Levels are expected to rise slowly and peak with spring runoff.

Image Source and Credit:

White-faced Ibis Plegadis chihi, Great Salt Lake, Utah.  Alan Vernon, July 2009.  Wikimedia Commons.

Deborah

Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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