Governor Michael Leavitt 210 State Capitol Salt Lake City, Utah 84114
Dear Governor Leavitt,
Attached please find a copy of LIVING RIVERS’ 2002 State of Utah’s Rivers report. As river stewards gather around the world on this, the 5th International Day of Action Against Dams and for Rivers, Water and Life, we are heartened that the Utah legislature is exercising increased caution with regard to unnecessary water projects, such as the Bear River dams. It is also encouraging to see mounting public interest in restoration efforts to repair the damage past projects have caused.
What is most promising, however, is the evolving dialogue concerning water conservation. As you noted last summer, even if Utah focused exclusively on developing all available water supplies, not enough water exists to service projected future demand. Managing the state’s water consumption is the only way to buffer against shortages like those anticipated this year. Water conservation policies are also the most cost effective means to bolster supplies for both the short and long term. Utah’s per capita water consumption is the second highest in the country after Nevada, indicating significant opportunities for improved water use efficiency should appropriate incentives be offered.
Sustained progress in water conservation will also allow for the preservation and restoration of key elements of Utah’s natural heritage–its rivers. As a leader within the Colorado River watershed, you are undoubtedly aware of the increasing strain the basin’s water consumption practices place on river habitat. Arizona has sacrificed nearly the entire Salt and Gila river system to diversions. Water seldom reaches the Colorado River delta and the Gulf of California. Riparian habitat throughout the watershed is suffering, and Utah is not immune. More diversions planned for the San Juan River and Green River tributaries signal dry streams ahead. Reduced water consumption must become a priority if these rivers are to be sustained.
LIVING RIVERS is committed to river protection through water conservation. Increased water efficiency will eliminate the perceived need for many projects, such as the St. George Pipeline or the Narrows Dam. Energy efficiency, too, can help to replace destructive hydroelectric projects, such as on the Bear River, American Fork and Boulder Creek, not to mention help to revive critical habitat in Dinosaur National Monument from the impacts of Flaming Gorge Dam.
Greater balance can be achieved in meeting ecological needs, as well as our own, from what rivers have to offer. That is the theme of the enclosed report as it highlights issues affecting river management across the state. We look forward to your feedback.
cc: Utah Congressional delegation
Utah State Legislature
Download: State of Utah's Rivers [PDF File]