During the past few weeks, there has been a major summit on the Great Salt Lake, multiple gatherings and summits on Utah Lake, and other meetings and discussions among various groups regarding air quality. Lake preservation, water quality and availability, and air quality are some of the largest concerns of a growing Utah population that is on track to double in size during the next 30 years – a large portion of which will be in Utah County.
The Legislative Policy Team of the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce has established its areas of policy emphasis with the establishment of six sub committees that include natural resources, healthcare, education and workforce development, housing, transportation and infrastructure and business environment. At the top of the policy list is water and air quality, which fundamentally are closely tied together.
During a recent summit on the Great Salt Lake, it became very clear that the drought-stricken body of water is at its lowest level in recorded history, and it continues to recede at a fast pace. It’s not always clear to most people how this affects the state and the people who live here.
First, the dust from the exposed shoreline, that is full of different types of particles and elements, is easily blown into the air creating a direct threat to the health of the people and to the air quality itself. It is common to see the Salt Lake Valley and beyond full of dust from the dry shoreline.
Second, the lake’s ability to provide lake effect snow and contribute to the snowpack of the ‘greatest snow on earth’ is severely impacted. This shortens the ski season, creates pressure and costs to resorts in making snow for their ski hills, and directly impacting the economic health of the ski and winter tourism industry here in Utah. A whole host of additional issues arise as well from agricultural effects to wildlife management.
Utah Lake shares many of the issues facing the Great Salt Lake and the two water bodies are uniquely connected to each other for survival. With a dying Great Salt Lake, every source of its precious water becomes a balancing act of supply and demand. Utah Lake is one of the key sources of water for the Great Salt Lake. Whatever happens to Utah Lake has a direct effect on Great Salt Lake.
Additionally, Utah Lake is feeling the pressure of generations of abuse in the form of pollution and mismanagement, population growth, introduction of non-native plants and wildlife, and industrial pressure. Today, there is rightfully a movement to both preserve and restore the lake. Many different groups are weighing in on this movement from conservation groups, developers, legislators, municipal and county officials, businesses and city and county citizens.
It is both a difficult and exciting time as the business community, public, and other organizations begin working together to determine the right courses of action to take in improving our water and air quality. The legislative team of the UV Chamber believes it can both participate and facilitate this effort.
The core position of the Chamber is to fulfill the vision of its Natural Resources Pillar, which is that the success of our area and our people is “inextricably linked to the proactive preservation and stewardship of our natural resources,” including, and especially, Utah Lake. The Chamber shares the communities’ goals in improving and promoting healthy air, supporting policies to advance sustainable water use and conservation, access to clean water, and encourage the utilization of the health and biodiversity of Utah Lake as a center for natural beauty and recreation, including any conservation efforts and structures that facilitate the same.
Working together, the future looks good. As a community, as Utah Valley, we will see the end of this drought, and working together will implement plans and policies to preserve and restore our waterways, increase our air-quality, and increase the quality of life for our people, families, and businesses.