Wasatch Environmental Update for October 30, 2016
By John Worlock, Member of the Board of Directors of Save Our Canyons
“Water in, and from, the Central Wasatch”
We live in Utah, known to be a desert, and so there is always the suggestion of not enough water. This threat becomes more lively if we subscribe to the view that so-called Climate Change will leave us higher and dryer.
But let’s take a look at the current situation. Utah’s official water-year ended a month ago when September became October, and the assessment was that we are just ok, or just about normal. Reservoirs are not full, but they aren’t usually full at this time of year. The land has gratefully soaked up the late September rains, so it won’t have to absorb much of the spring runoff from the mountains. That’s important, since much of our water comes as winter snow in the mountains, running off to replenish both the aquifers and the reservoirs in the spring and early summer.
The watershed in the neighboring Central Wasatch Mountains has been essential to the water supply in the Salt Lake Valley. Many years ago, the state gave what’s called extraterritorial jurisdiction over that watershed to Salt Lake City. City officals’ stalwart protection of their watershed has been important not only in keeping the water pure and plentiful, but also in helping to keep the Wasatch Canyons free of overdevelopment.
This extraterritorial power has not suited some of the small landowners in the Cottonwood Canyons. Their development ambitions have perennially been frustrated, either by the lack of access to water rights, or the nearness of their property to the precious riparian areas bordering streams and lakes.
We’re on alert, currently, as these landowners have been using testimony before the state’s Quality Growth Commission to advance their misguided notions of the eternal rights of property owners. These same misguided notions are capable of taking root in the Utah Legislature. And if the legislature takes it into its collective head to revoke the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction over the watershed, well, there goes the ball game. There goes our water, along with the quiet and the solitude of the Wasatch Canyons.
Stay with us and together we’ll fight off this threat to our water and our Canyons.