Energy & Environment

Photo by Phil Douglass, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources</i>

A newly proposed Bureau of Land Management plan on conserving greater sage-grouse habitat is not going over very well with Utah’s congressional delegation.

Freida and Ray Tibbitts have always taken care to turn off lights whenever they leave a room, so they were stunned last fall when their electric bill jumped and the energy report included with the bill showed their home was using twice as much power as the neighbors.

Judy Fahys/KUER

The U. S. Bureau of Reclamation has been taking a hard look at the Colorado River Basin, exploring ways to deal with the reality that the Colorado River can’t always deliver all of the water that people demand.

Judy Fahys/KUER

The weather forecast includes a decent chance of rain through the holiday weekend. It’s going to spoil plenty of outdoor activities, but some Utahns are grateful for the relief it’s brought, at least for the time being.

Grantsville farmer Ernest Matthews is one. He welcomes this rainy May for what its done for the range his cows graze and the alfalfa he grows.

Utah Clean Energy

The energy industry has been in Utah’s capital city this week to talk about trends, and one word kept popping up everywhere: clean.

Jack Gerard of the American Petroleum Institute told reporters: “We’re leading the world to improve the cleanliness and energy consumption.”

Garrett / Flickr Creative Commons

A state energy official told lawmakers Wednesday that cutting greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s power plants could be costly for Utah.

The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan to cut the emissions linked to climate change hasn’t been finalized yet, but Utah’s energy officials and electricity producers worry that the new emission controls could hit Utah hard.


A former graduate student in biology at the University of Utah has just published the largest study to date of salmon movements in Alaska.

Robert Young / Flickr Creative Commons

Utah’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has been embroiled in controversy over inventory management and low morale. But Governor Gary Herbert said Thursday he’s comfortable with the way things are going now.

Per / Flickr Creative Commons

A new study zeroes in on those odd times when bird flocks bypass their usual winter habitats because of the climate.

Pine siskins are small songbirds that settle sometimes outside their normal winter hangouts.

Source: Tesoro

Tesoro has pressed the pause button on plans to build a petroleum pipeline halfway across northern Utah.

The San Antonio-based petroleum company informed Summit County leaders last week that current market conditions were behind their decision to put a hold on its Uinta Express Pipeline.

Governor Gary Herbert’s top environment advisor is taking on a challenging new role, leading the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

“The mission of the Department of Environmental Quality,” says the governor, “really is, and I’ll quote, ‘to protect human health and quality of life by protecting and enhancing the environment’.”

Brian Grimmett

The Salt Lake County Council is preparing to vote on a resolution calling for people to follow smart water conservation guidelines.

Utah's Uncertain Water Future explores Utah's relationship with water -- from the days when pioneers dug canals by hand to a future riddled with deep droughts and rising  demands. The documentary focuses on how Utah is managing these challenges, especially in fast-growing southwestern Utah. 

Don Anderson / Flickr Creative Commons

Western ski towns including Park City are backing a proposal to reform the royalty system for coal mined on federal lands. The reason: Climate change is dragging down their economies, says a coalition called the Mountain Pact.

The group says Park City will lose $120 million dollars in lower output, 1,137 jobs and more than $20 million dollars in paychecks thanks to a shrinking snowpack and less tourism. The Utah ski town has joined ten other mountain communities that want to combat the problem through reforms to federal coal-leasing programs.

Judy Fahys/KUER

Scott Jones steers a snowmobile into the T.W. Daniel Experimental Forest deep in the mountains above Logan. He’s a soils physicist at Utah State University, and he’s studying how forests use and store water.

“Understanding the processes up here will help us anticipate what’s happening in the valleys and streams,” he says.

Jones and a colleague measure water the snowpack’s holding after Utah’s warmest and driest winter on record. Data like this can help water managers plan for the future.

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.