Western Governors’ Association: Water in the Changing West

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This morning at the Western Governors’ Association meetings in Colorado Springs, Gov. Herbert participated in and moderated a panel on “Water in the Changing West,” along with several other governors from Western states and other experts.

In his opening remarks, Gov. Herbert said:

In “Poor Richard’s Almanac,” Benjamin Franklin wrote: “When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.” Water is the lifeblood of Utah, just as it is in most Western states. We also know a thing or two about “dry” because our collective water well in Utah has often run low.

  • Utah, on average, receives 13 inches of precipitation per year — making it the second-driest state in America; only Nevada receives less.

  • If drought is defined as a period when precipitation is less than 75 percent of normal, then the Great Basin of which Utah is a part, experiences drought three out of every 10 years.

With that in mind, I asked Utahns last June to help define a 50-Year Water Strategy for our state. We held eight regional listening sessions last summer and received over 800 comments. A diverse and experienced State Water Strategy Advisory Team has been formed and is actively involved in next steps, including:

  • Gathering sound data and ideas

  • Framing proposed approaches into scenarios of Utah’s potential water future that will be presented to the public for additional feedback this summer, and

  • Developing specific recommendations for the 50-Year Water Strategy.

Through this process, the Team is tackling some complex and controversial issues that can no longer be ignored. The challenges that we in Utah face are similar to those shared by my colleagues on this stage:

  • Addressing competition for water resources

  • Meeting the water needs of our growing population while protecting the environment and the beauty and outdoor lifestyle we enjoy

  • Funding the development of new water infrastructure and maintaining our existing facilities, especially in a time of reduced federal contributions

  • And many more

Governors Brownback, Hickenlooper, Mead and Bullock – among others – are also working on water plans for their states.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts today. Along with the obvious challenges, there are also opportunities when it comes to water management in the Western states.



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