Wasatch Environmental Update for March 29, 2025
By John Worlock, Member, SOC Board of Directors
“Reflections on Water”
We’re in a period of self-examination recently, as a result of the current discussions about the use of water throughout the west, and specifically in the Salt Lake Valley. Utah’s legislature and the Division of Water Resources are planning to divert some of the water of the Bear River, which normally flows into the Great Salt Lake, to satisfy the so-called “culinary” needs of the predicted growth of the Salt Lake Valley population.
In our process of self-evaluation, we have studied our water bills over the past two years for our modest house on the East Bench. During that time, we have drawn nearly forty thousand cubic feet of water. Converting that into the standard DWR or Division of Water Resources’ units of acre-feet, we are using slightly less than half an acre-foot each year.
At this usage, the DWR’s Bear River diversion would support nearly half a million new single-family dwellings in the Valley. But, going back to our self-examination, our summer-time water usage is overwhelmingly larger than that in the winter. Over the year three quarters of our water stays outdoors, to evaporate, soak into the ground or run down the gutter into the Emigration Creek. And we have probably the driest grassy lawn in the neighborhood.
Our indoor water allotment, converted into household units, comes to about 100 gallons a day. Well, no, we are not drinking that much, so it’s not drinking water. We buy our purified drinking and cooking water at Sprouts Market for twenty five cents a gallon. Very little of our daily hundred gallons goes for washing vegetables or dishes or even clothes. Our most profligate water usage is in our half-century old toilets, estimated to dispose of four to five gallons per flush. Nevertheless, at less than a penny per flush, we are not planning to amend our toilet usage.
As has been pointed out in many discussions of water resources, water cost does not enter into our personal plans for water usage. We do not pay, per gallon, for the actual cost of our water. The future beneficiaries of the Bear River water will also not be charged for its cost, if the legislature chooses to spread the burden as a tax on the general population.