Colby Frazier’s article on water [Green Guide, April 17, City Weekly] is probably too polite when discussing Utah’s approach to its impending water crisis.
For example: 1. Paying for water through property taxes removes any incentive to conserve, and can unfairly burden low-income people because they cannot save money even if they use less. Few water economists would support this mechanism.
2. Elsewhere, higher tariffs, especially progressive tariffs, discourage waste. What makes Washington County different?
3. Tariffs should be “transparent.” But Salt Lake City bills in 100 cubic feet, whereas most of us think in gallons, and when I called to get details of the tariffs, no one could help me. Not much conservation stimulus there.
4. The loss of prime agricultural land to urban sprawl will reduce irrigation requirements and free up valuable resources for municipal use, as the article points out. However, suppose our total resources are nominally 100, and stay constant (i.e., no Lake Powell pipeline, but also no loss due to snowpack degradation as a result of global warming).
If municipal use may increase from the present 15 to, say, 30 by 2060, that means that agriculture has to fall from 85 to 70. Is this going to happen? If not, who is going to tackle the political minefield of making farmers conserve (change crops, give up spray irrigation) and reallocating water rights?
Politicians and elected officials are usually addicted to major capital projects. There is very little prestige to be gained or money to be made from the often cheaper and more effective alternatives: conservation and leakage reduction.
We live in a very dry state with a burgeoning population, and need to take water much more seriously. Relying on the depleted Lake Powell and the already over-allocated Colorado River seems a risky gamble.
Salt Lake City