Tagged: Bear River Development
Developing Utah’s Bear River water resources is unnecessary to consider at this time. Utahans consume substantially more water per capita than all the other western states except Idaho (http://le.utah.gov/audit/15_01rpt.pdf), and we have not yet begun to consider how conservation could substantially decrease our water use. The most recent water needs audit (https://le.utah.gov/audit/15_01rpt.pdf) suggested that local water use data are incomplete and overestimate future demands for water. Furthermore, we have not implemented policy projects that could substantially reduce water use, such as tiered pricing, metering secondary water, and requiring individuals to pay the full cost of water without subsidizing it through property taxes. Until we try these water-conserving practices, we have no way of knowing whether the growing population will truly need more water in the future, or whether conservation practices can prevent the costly development of the Bear River.
I think the biggest problem is that Utah’s data for the projections of what our water use will be like is based on a flawed water baseline survey from 2000 (http://le.utah.gov/audit/15_01rpt.pdf). The methods for gathering data in the 2000 study weren’t documented well, so they’re not repeatable, and there’s no way of knowing how accurate the study was done. Also, the way local water use data is collected isn’t consistent or supervised, making that data unreliable.
The mentality of water use itself is a big problem in Utah. People are stuck in the “use it or lose it” ways of the early farming pioneers. The water rights in UT cause water that stays in a stream or lake to be labeled as “not doing anything beneficial” because of that old mentality. This means that if, for example, a conservationist farmer (if there is such a thing) buys his rights but then lets some of the water he bought stay in the stream, the water right for that water can be lost (http://cdmbuntu.lib.utah.edu/cdm/ref/collection/upcat/id/1927). It is not only the hard facts that Utah combats with conserving water, it is an entire way of thought and life that has existed for generations.
Another point to make is that the state’s conservation goal is 220 gpcd (gallons per person per day), but even then, the supply would run out by 2040 (http://le.utah.gov/audit/15_01rpt.pdf). The Division of Water Resources also assumes that after that goal is reached, water use will not be reduced any further. But based on data from 2005 and 2010, water use has already been shown to be ahead of this goal (http://le.utah.gov/audit/15_01rpt.pdf). I think this shows a trend in our society that will keep going, where people are becoming more conscious of their resource use and the effects it has on their surroundings. It is also shown that state’s that have environments similar to Utah have made goals far below ours for water conservation. There is also the fact that Utahns don’t use their water efficiently. A study showed that Utah residents were applying twice as much water as needed for their plants, and that if residents were to use the recommended techniques for watering, the amount of water used in irrigation could be reduced by 26 (http://le.utah.gov/audit/15_01rpt.pdf). If the public is educated on water conservancy, conservancy practices are enforced, and we make legitimate conservancy goals, then I believe we can save an enormous amount of water that is needed in Utah.
Another thing to consider is that Utah is constantly going in and out of drought cycles (http://kutv.com/news/local/great-salt-lake-levels-at-50-year-low). Even though we’re currently not in a drought, thanks to last years winter, this last summer may have shaken the water numbers because of how hot and dry it was, especially in Northern Utah (http://www.sltrib.com/news/environment/2017/09/08/september-weather-will-make-or-break-utahs-water-prospects-forecasters-arent-optimistic/). There is a worry that if this trend continues through fall, Utah could end the water year with below normal numbers, and that’s with all the snow pack that we gathered last winter. It could bring us back into a drought (http://www.sltrib.com/news/environment/2017/09/08/september-weather-will-make-or-break-utahs-water-prospects-forecasters-arent-optimistic/). The fact that Utah consumes more water per capita than other states (http://le.utah.gov/audit/15_01rpt.pdf) is alarming enough. I agree with user2327 that if there’s enough education and enforcement on water conservancy, it could save a good amount of water, and help the public during times of drought.
For me the biggest issue with damming The Bear River is the pollution effects that can come with it. Not pollution in the water but pollution from airborne particles coming from the exposed lake bed of The Great Salt Lake, as I gathered information on how much lake bed could possibly be exposed it was uncertain on how much the lake will drop, but it will drop overall. Dust from exposed wetlands will become airborne particles contributing to our poor air quality (http://utahrivers.org/?cause=the-bear-river-project), as well as exposing other things like; mercury and methylmercury. Along with creating more air pollution, the lake effect accounts for 10% of the annual snowpack as we learned in class. This means that there will be less water for the following summer and could possibly negate the building of a new reservoir if we are not getting the snowpack needed to fill the reservoir, also the ski industry in Utah will be affected which would be a big impact on our economy.
The issue of damming the Bear River should be evaluated in accordance with both the short and long-term effects on the environment and economy. Dams have been shown to affect literally every aspect of life downstream from the wildlife to the urban and rural inhabitants (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4634923/). The core issues at hand are the damage that water development causes and the rate of water waste of the average Utahn (http://utahrivers.org/cause/the-bear-river-project/). Not only do we use more water per person than almost any other state in the United States, the widespread ecological issues and temporary, high input nature of dams makes it a temporary and prohibitively costly band-aid on the issue of water management in our region (http://rivers.bee.oregonstate.edu/sites/default/files/brown_et_al_2008.pdf). Methods for changing Utahns’ attitudes toward water usage should be put into practice before spending millions of dollars to create and remediate the environmental damage produced for the profit of the few at the expense of the many.
With the population in utah projected to double by 2060 (http://le.utah.gov/audit/15_01rpt.pdf) sources of reliable water will become increasingly important. The Division of Water Resources indicates that in ~25 years Utah’s water demand will outreach its supply. As Utahns have the second highest rate of residential water use (from a 2010 survey http://le.utah.gov/audit/15_01rpt.pdf) this does not seem to be an unlikely timeline. However, there are other dry western states that use less gallons of water per capita per day than Utah (e.g. Nevada ~134 gallons). Also, as noted by a recent audit, projections performed by The Division of Water Resources may have not been entirely accurate (http://le.utah.gov/audit/15_01rpt.pdf). Development of the Bear River does not need to be considered at this time. There is much that can be done to gather more accurate data, such as metering, and to facilitate conservation of water resources going forward. Utah’s current water pricing does not encourage water conservation. The introduction of metered secondary water and steeper rate tiers may provide Utahns with the incentive to conserve water. Spending more than one billion dollars on a Bear River development project before consulting accurate water usage data and implementing much less expensive water conservation measures would be a waste of taxpayer dollars.
One issue with putting a dam on the Bear River that hasn’t been brought up yet is the potential impact pollutants have the aquatic ecosystems of the river itself and the Great Salt Lake. According to “Bear River” by Craig Denton, because of irrigation the water from Bear River already contains “fertilizers (nitrogen and phosphorus), herbicides, and pesticides.” Eutrophication in the Great Salt Lake thus far has been avoided because the summer release of these irrigation waters carries otherwise dry sediment river bank sediment into the river. Riparian habitats are damaged because the water is too dirty to support plants and microinvertebrates alike (Denton). The net effect is a reduction in biodiversity. It also leads to sediment buildup in the Great Salt Lake itself–and as has been mentioned, exposure of such sediments poses a public health hazard. Increased use of water for agriculture would increase the buildup of fertilizers and pesticides, which could create a problem akin to the current one in the Jordan River without expensive treatment. Building a dam in the first place would cost one billion dollars (http://le.utah.gov/audit/15_01rpt.pdf), and maintaining it and the riparian ecosystems would be even more costly. Developing the Bear River in this manner seems likely to cause more trouble than it alleviates, especially in light of externalities like ecosystem function.
Having the bear river dammed seems to cause more troubles than being a good thing. even tho the state officials are saying that this project is necessary for the population thats expected to be double by 2015 and that it would reduce freshwater inflows by %20 It could cause more problem to the community and to so many things. there are millions of birds that would be effected by damming the river. there is many short and long effects on the environment , as well as effect on wildlife. there should be consulting accurate usage of water before spending so much money on this project. Also we are not %100 sure that the growing population is going to need so much water in future, we could have higher price for the water so that people do not use as much, I know that not everyone can pay increased water bill but we could control the usage. If the community knows water conservancy we could save a lot. Its important to think of other options rather than straight damming the river.
The further development of the Bear River would cause more issues with riparian habitats if continued in regards to invasive aquatic species. With the development of dams showing evidence for an increased chance of introduction of invasive species (http://www.jstor.org/stable/20440936) the control of these problem plants and animals would become more difficult. With nuisance species that already exist in Utah such as the Purple loosestrife and Eurasian watermilfoil (https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=MYSP2, https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=LYSA2) the creation of another damn would further precipitate the establishment of more populations of these species in the state. The creation of this dam would make the problem of stopping the encroachment of these species in native habitats harder and would put adjacent habitats along the river at further risk of invasion.
I think that the cost of maintaining any dam on the Bear will outweigh its benefits. If there is any agriculture upstream from a dam it runs the risk of algae blooms. If there is a bloom then absolutely nobody benefits from the water. All man-made structures will fail, and when a dam fails there is usually substantial damage down river. Early this year, in February, a dam in Elko county Nevada burst, and its water flowed into Utah. Without proper construction and maintenance, residents run the risk of their homes and property being destroyed.
The development of the dam could easily lead to an overinvestment into our water. Farmers are concerned about water, but farmland is slowing being sold off to housing development. The 2012 Utah agricultural census shows only a minor decrease in farmland since 2002, a little over 120 thousand fewer acres or about a 1% decrease. (Utah 2012 census) That’s fairly insignificant, however, talk to any farmer in the greater Davis county area and they will tell you roughly the same thing. Farmers are getting old, the kids don’t want anything to do with the family farm and would rather sell the land, especially when they are offered three times the land’s worth. As time goes on with potentially less farmland in use, there is the potential of more water being freed up for domestic use. So, until the 2017 agricultural census is complete there is no way of knowing for certain the current trend in farmland, but I am willing to bet it’s on the decline.
Utah instead, should be more concerned with water law and regulation than with building dams.
Damming the Bear River would be a bad idea in that it will prevent freshwater from reaching the Great Salt Lake and currently, it doesn’t have a dam but the impacts from population have already affected the lake. The Bear River is the Great Salt Lake’s biggest tributary, providing the lake with at least 60% of it’s freshwater.(https://www.newsdeeply.com/water/articles/2016/08/29/bear-river-the-biggest-dam-project-youve-never-heard-of) I’d like to mention that the Great Salt Lake is the only place that provides potassium and magnesium in North America. If the lake disappears, so does our resource for those minerals. (https://www.newsdeeply.com/water/articles/2016/08/29/bear-river-the-biggest-dam-project-youve-never-heard-of) Potassium and magnesium are important to the mineral industry, providing at least 7,000 jobs. It was already mentioned above but I’d like to add that not only does the exposed lake bed from the Great Salt Lake shrinking cause mercury particles to be airborne but also arsenic and selenium. The addition of these heavy metals (arsenic, selenium, mercury (listed above) and others) (http://fox13now.com/2014/11/03/what-lurks-beneath-the-great-salt-lake/) would be added to the already poor air quality that plagues Salt Lake metro area.
I dare say that the dam just can not happen. Not yet. In math, it is taught that any data set presented can be shown in a way that is highly misleading to the general public. Any of the data supporting the construction of the dam just seems to me like a large chunk of the answer is missing. Correct my if I’m wrong, but I have not found any supported calculations of the future supply and demand for the water. this three word phrase will make a big difference in the necessity for storing the water for prolonged use in the summer. We know that population will increase, but we do not show how the population is expected to do so. Will we see more vertical construction to support the large human capacity, or is there going to be a wider growth or, urban sprawl, if you will that will utilize more land. We were even shown in class that agriculture was by far, with no competition, the largest contributor to water use in Utah, and with there being less land to cultivate, we may end up needing less water than we think. I feel like the current position being taken now on the “pro dam campaign” is that, “The water in The Great Salt Lake is just being wasted, so lets make money from it any way possible.” The environmental factors are not being taken into account by much extent by anyone.
According to Zach Frankel, executive director of the Utah Rivers Council, “ We were supposed to run out of water 20 years ago.” We still do not know how much water Utah needs. According to the 2015 water audit, the data that stated how much water Utah really needs was classified as insufficient data. (http://utahrivers.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Bear-River-Alternatives.
pdf) These two statements show us how little data we have in order for the Bear River Project to take place. One cannot predict the future of how much water we really need in 2033 if we don’t have the actual data on how much water we need today. The construction costs on the Bear River Project has been estimated at $1.9 billion dollars. (http://www.standard.net/Environment
/2014/09/25/Talk-of-Utah-running-out-of-water-is-scare-tactics-says-conservation-group) It will cost millions of dollars annually to operate and maintain the dam. This money will come from the taxpayers pocket. Let’s say they decide to proceed with the project and later come to a conclusion that we didn’t need this water to begin with, the taxpayers will also have to pay for the removal of the dam. The loss of the taxpayer money is at stake here, just like the different ecosystems that will be lost if we decide to proceed with this project.
Something I didn’t think to address about agriculture. Yes, farmland is slowly decreasing, however, The trend of farmland does not nessicarlly reflect farming practices. Improved irrigation, better water practices, and optimized growing all contribute to reducing the amount of land necessary to support a functioning farm. This could mean that as farmland acreage decreases the number of actual farms increases for a time. As smaller market garden businesses take the place of traditional large family farms. Filling the demand for locally sourced goods.
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