Energy & Environment

Brian Grimmett

After finding veligers, or baby quagga mussels, in a water sample taken last year, staff from the Utah Department of Natural Resources began testing to determine if the invasive mussel has infested Deer Creek Reservoir.

Terry Gildea/KUER

Getting water from streams, lakes and reservoirs to homes and businesses is challenging for any city utility.  Pipe valves leak. Water mains can break. Aging infrastructure can allow gallons of treated water to escape the system before ever getting to where it needs to go.  As our series Utah’s Uncertain Water Future continues, we look at how Salt Lake City water managers are trying to maintain a sophisticated pipe system and stay ahead of leaks.

Gary Turnier / KUED

Here at milepost 80 in Enoch on 1-15 state geologists are inspecting a sinkhole on the right of way. They first spotted this jagged crack last year in images from a remote sensing survey.

“Yeah. You’re right,” says Bill Lund, senior scientist for the Utah Geological survey, speaking to a colleague. “There could be some displacement going on. And it looks like the prairie dogs have found it.”

Water managers have a chart that shows Utah’s water demands will outstrip supplies by 2040 and say it shows why the state should start expensive water development projects now.

The Legislature’s auditors spent more than a year basically fact-checking that chart, and at a hearing Tuesday they informed lawmakers important decisions about Utah’s water are being made with unreliable data.

Flickr creative commons

When we turn on our faucets at home we expect water to come rushing out of them on demand. It’s easy not to think about where that water comes from or how it’s treated.  But with climate change and persistent droughts across the West, many city water managers have to find creative ways to supply growing populations with the water they need.  We continue our series, Utah’s Uncertain Water Future, with a look at the sophisticated system that brings clean drinking water to the residents of Salt Lake City.

Judy Fahys/KUER

In a parched corner of the nation's second driest state, the Virgin River delivers life-giving water to wildlife, farms and increasing numbers of people.

Ron Thompson sees a future when four times as many people could be living here in St. George, and they’ll need more water than the Virgin can provide. That’s why he wants the Lake Powell Pipeline.

Citizens for Dixie’s Future says Washington and Kane counties can conserve enough water to avert the need for the costly Lake Powell Pipeline. Instead, this local conservation group supports the Local Waters Alternative plan developed by Western Resource Advocates, which details a management plan that would cost less and deliver sufficient water to provide for about four times as many people in southwestern Utah in the next 35 years. Pipeline supporters say this approach would crimp quality of life, economic development and population.

The Salt Lake Chamber announced its Water is Your Business program in the summer of 2014. The idea is to educate and motivate Utah's politically powerful business community to recognize how important water is to their bottom line. This fact sheet says more than $30 billion in water projects are needed to meet future demands. That figure includes everything from updated pipes and pumps in local communities to big-ticket endeavors like the Lake Powell Pipeline and the Bear River Project in northern Utah.

The Washington County Water Conservancy District would take over the Lake Powell Pipeline once the state Division of Water Resources finances and builds it. District managers say its crucial to tap 88,000 acre-feet of Colorado river water for Washington and Kane counties -- not just because southwestern Utah is expected to quadruple in population over the next few decades but also to tap Utah's unused share of Colorado River water.

The Utah Division of Water Resources was tapped by the state Legislature in 2006 to pursue the Lake Powell Pipeline, and an application is due to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the spring of 2016. So far, the state has spent $25 million putting together the application, which considers financial and cultural resources as well as engineering designs.

The Utah Foundation's published an in-depth overview of Utah's water situation last fall, "Flowing Toward 2050." It includes data on the fees water customers pay in various cities, including one in Utah. A common criticism of Utah's water utilities is that they charge too little to trigger conservation, and they muddle the true cost of water by using property taxes -- instead of usage fees -- to pay for water supply and delivery systems.  

Subsidence in the San Joaquin Valley, Calif., documented in a USGS report.

Wikipedia has developed this chart to show how the Colorado River is allocated. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has published the text of the 1922 Colorado River Compact. The document was developed at a time when the river was flush, and there has been less water to share -- among users and the environment -- as demands on the water supplies have grown.

The Utah Rivers Council contends that phasing out property taxes for water would trigger conservation -- of water and money -- throughout the state. Even conservatives have criticized water-fee policies for promoting consumption rather than conservation. Meanwhile, the public and industry are making inroads on a statewide goal of reducing water use 25 percent by 2025.

The Colorado River Basin was divided into the Upper and Lower basins in the Colorado River Compact of 1922. Utah is part of the Upper Basin, along with Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. The Lower Basin includes Arizona, Nevada and California. For decades, lower-basin states have been making use of Colorado River water that upper-basin states aren't capturing.

"Dream" by Jay Eubanks

May 3, 2015

Jay Eubanks bought property in Enoch as an investment only to discover that groundwater mining was making the ground around his house collapse and causing the city to declare his investment home uninhabitable. It's called "subsidence" and it's cropping up around the state in places where aquifers are being overdrawn. When reporter Judy Fahys asked Eubanks what he did to unwind from stress like this, he told her he makes music. This is the song that emerged from his ordeal.  

Started out with a dream
To take a chance on a new way
A little luck to make a better day
Get some freedom
Live the way that I wanna be

Brian Grimmett

The American Lung Association’s “State of the Air” report ranks Salt Lake City’s air 7th worst in the nation. On a report card, that’s an “F” in ozone and single-day particle pollution.

Dan Bammes

Environmental advocates are appealing a decision to issue an air quality permit allowing expansion of the HollyFrontier refinery in Davis County.

Andrea Smardon

Primatologist Jane Goodall was speaking in Salt Lake City at a sold-out event Friday evening about her work and the future of chimpanzees. But in the afternoon, she lent her fame and clout to a more controversial cause. Goodall appeared with Steven Druker, the author of a book that aims to wipe out genetically modified organisms from the world’s food supply.

Warren Hanratty via Creative Commons

Several dry winters have prompted two local governments to offer tools to help Utahns save water.

Courtesy photo

Salt Lake City is the first US stop on the world tour of author Steven Druker, an attorney who sued the US Food and Drug Administration over its policy on genetically engineered foods. He’s in town talking about his new book, “Altered Genes, Twisted Truth,” with a little help from primatologist Jane Goodall.

Brian Grimmett

The Environmental Protection Agency has officially removed the newly redeveloped Midvale Slag site from the Superfund National Priorities List.


Governor Gary Herbert says he’s still not sure people have a role in causing climate change.

A reporter asked Utah’s Republican governor on Thursday whether Utah’s lean snowpack and possible water shortages are the result of climate change.

Tax Day Storm Stands Out

Apr 15, 2015
USU Webcam

The storm that bounded into Utah Tuesday stands out as an epic weather event for a number of reasons.

Wind gusts topped 60 miles an hour at dozens of Utah locations. Blowing dust pushed air-pollution measurements into the hazardous range. And temperatures plummeted 29 degrees between afternoon and evening.

Flickr: Ray Terrill

Rio Tinto stadium is set to be the home of the largest privately owned solar arrays in Utah. The new solar arrays will provide more than 2 megawatts of power to the stadium, offsetting 73% of its electric needs.

USU and Yale University

Researchers at Utah State University and Yale University have mapped public opinion about global warming across the US. Their study published Monday in Nature Climate Change reveals the diversity of opinions at state and local levels.

File: Delta Disaster Services

Among the bills Governor Gary Herbert signed into law earlier this week is HB 396, which prevents the Utah Department of Environmental Quality from placing a season-long ban on wood burning.

Lynn Kitchen / NCRS

Utah’s warm, dry winter means a measly snowmelt, and water-watchers are already writing off this water year as one of the state’s driest ever even though it’s just halfway over.

Most years, the dogs splashing in Parley’s Creek would find the water here cold and swift with spring snowmelt. But the stream’s running at about one-third of normal for this time of year, and that’s as good as it’s going to get. Forecasters say there’s no more runoff to look forward to.

Judy Fahys/KUER

Leaders of an ATV ride into a closed canyon last year asked a court to dismiss the charges against them. But a federal judge ruled Wednesday that the trial will go forward.

San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman and three others behind last May’s Recapture Canyon protest ride declined to comment after Wednesday’s court hearing.

Nicole Nixon

Salt Lake City mayor Ralph Becker came together with public utilities and infrastructure experts on Wednesday to discuss planning and building in a way that conserves land, water and natural resources along the Wasatch front.