LOGAN, Utah — Governor Spencer Cox said more money will be needed to expand water conservation measures and save the Great Salt Lake.
At a forum on Thursday hosted at Utah State University's Janet Quinney Lawson Institute for Land, Water & Air, the governor was peppered with questions submitted by students. They focused largely on the Great Salt Lake and drought.
Asked bluntly "will we all die with the Great Salt Lake?" the governor said there is a lot of money and resources being put into reversing the damage done to the lake. Gov. Cox referenced a trip that lawmakers took in Utah National Guard helicopters over the shinking lake, which he said motivated lawmakers to step up and pass major water conservation measures and funding to help.
"I'm very optimistic about the Great Salt Lake and preserving it and making sure we all don’t die," he said.
The governor said his optimism stemmed from increasing willingness of the public and policy-makers to save the lake. Gov. Cox said scientists at the University of Utah and Utah State University have told him it is not too late.
That view was shared by Brian Steed, the former director of Utah's Department of Natural Resources and now the director of the Institute for Land, Water & Air.
"We have work to do, yes. But in doing that work, I think we put ourselves in a position to where we can save these really important resources," Steed told FOX 13 News. "For the Great Salt Lake? We’re going to have to figure out how to get more water there. That’s probably going to involve more ag efficiency, it's going to involve more conservation on a local scale, but i think Utah is up to the challenge."
Gov. Cox said they do not know how long the drought will last and with a changing climate, "we have to act as if this is going to continue." He said agriculture producers, the state's top user of water, will have to make changes. The governor called for continued incentives to get agriculture producers to pivot to new technologies that use less water but can yield more crops.
For residential water users, the governor also said incentives to get people to ditch non-functional turf in favor of water-saving landscapes is yielding big successes with demand increasing by more than 500%.
"We don’t have enough money. We’ll get more," he said of incentives.
The governor predicted the Utah State Legislature would invest more money into conservation measures and advance more bills reacting to the drought and the Great Salt Lake.
This article is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that partners news, education and media organizations to help inform people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake—and what can be done to make a difference before it is too late. Read all of our stories at greatsaltlakenews.org.