Can Utah's Bear River Bear More People?
Recent news articles, as well as climate analyses, indicate that the Salt Lake City region is in for a reckoning about its water supply as well as the health of Great Salt Lake and the Bear River that feeds it. In 2022, Utah again ranked near the top of the “fastest growing states” in the U.S., and the pressure on water continues to climb right along with the population.
First, the MEGADROUGHT in the Colorado River basin has its thumb on the southern portion of the Salt Lake City metropolis which is served by the “Central Utah Project” (CUP). Further, population growth in that region is expected to keep growing.
Second, Great Salt Lake itself is collapsing, its water levels receding so far and so quickly that the US Geological Survey gage that measures the Lake level no longer works. Drought and overuse continue to strangle Great Salt Lake, and the population that depends on the Lake continues to climb as well.
Third, the Bear River — which is the biggest river flowing into Great Salt Lake — continues to struggle because of drought and overuse. In addition, a new large water diversion project is planned out of the Bear River, a project that environmental groups like Utah Rivers Council have square off against. Even the quieter and more conservative environmental groups are pointing out that Utah’s population is expected to double by 2050 which will have large negative impacts on the Bear River. This video by the Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust gets right to the heart of the population problem
Finally, the growth problem in Utah is so bad that the media is making it a topic of talk radio. Titled, “Can curbing Utah’s population growth address drought, Great Salt Lake?”, KSL radio recently ran a segment entertaining listeners’ comments and questions about how to curb population growth in Utah.
Lakes and rivers are voiceless in human decision-making, but suffer the consequences of those decisions first and foremost. Like many areas of the Southwest U.S., Utah’s lakes rivers are under extreme threat, with no end in sight to the threat as well as the human population growth that drives it.
Has Utah’s growth become unbearable?