WATER Scenarios:
Choices for
the Future

The following scenarios were created by the State Water Strategy Advisory Team to represent possible outcomes for Utah’s water in 2050. The scenarios differed in the following variables:

  • Sources of water used to serve growing population
  • Water conservation levels
  • Allocations among various uses over the next 35 years

The scenarios were presented to the public as part of the Your Utah, Your Future survey in spring 2015.

The scenarios were titled Allosaurus, Bonneville Trout, Seagull, Quaking Aspen, and Sego Lily (the state fossil, fish, bird, tree, and flower).

THE TWO MOST FAVORED SCENARIOS WERE QUAKING ASPEN, WHICH WAS SELECTED BY 33% OF UTAHNS, AND SEGO LILY, WHICH WAS SELECTED BY 24%.

ALLOSAURUS SCENARIO

ScenarioSummary_AL_Water.jpg

Water use per person decreases by 25% from today’s levels, which is 35% less than what was used in 2000. To supply water to our growing population, we build local water projects (wells, tanks, treatment plants, pipelines, efficiency improvements, etc.). We also build both the Lake Powell Pipeline to serve southwestern Utah and the Bear River Project to serve the Wasatch Front. These projects would use Utah’s remaining rights to the Colorado and Bear Rivers. Because of reduced demand through water conservation and the significant amount of water taken from agriculture, all or portions of the Bear River Project may be delayed until closer to 2050, though the Lake Powell Pipeline may still be required in the near term. A significant amount of our water also comes from agricultural lands that are replaced by homes and businesses as our communities grow. In addition, we buy more water from working farms, putting those farms out of production unless we spend money for improved technologies and other means of protecting food production. By 2050, sufficient water will either be developed or taken from other uses to satisfy new demands and to provide some reserve capacity for protection against droughts.

Water use per person decreases by 25% because:

  • Businesses use about 25% less water per job than today.
  • We use 25% less water indoors and outdoors.
  • Landscaping in yards and public open spaces is a maximum of 30% grass.
  • Water use is discouraged through significantly higher water rates.

Results:

  • Annual cost to install and maintain the average yard is $2,050 (increase from today’s $1,700), and large portions of many existing lawns need to be replaced with low-water plants and drip irrigation, at substantial expense.
  • Cost per household for new water projects is $6,000 spread over 35 years, and we lose almost all of our fruit and vegetable production.
  • Moderate costs for conservation are either borne directly by homeowners (replacing lawns, etc.) or incurred by water providers and added to water rates.
  • Agricultural production decreases by 15% statewide.
  • More diverse water sources protect us from water shortage caused by drought or climate variability.
  • During droughts little water can be taken from yards to meet critical needs.
  • Water withdrawals and loss of natural habitats in the Colorado, Bear, and local river systems continue, though impacts are delayed and may be lessened.

BONNEVILLE TROUT SCENARIO

ScenarioSummary_BT_Water.jpg

Water use per person remains the same as today, which is 15% less than what was used in 2000. To supply water to our growing population, we build local water projects (wells, tanks, treatment plants, pipelines, efficiency improvements, etc.). In the near term, we also build both the Lake Powell Pipeline to serve southwestern Utah and the Bear River Project to serve the Wasatch Front. These projects would use Utah’s remaining rights to the Colorado and Bear Rivers. A significant amount of our water also comes from agricultural lands that are replaced by homes and businesses as our communities grow. By 2050, sufficient water will be either developed or taken from other uses to satisfy new demands and to provide some reserve capacity for protection against droughts.

Water use per person remains the same as today because:

  • Businesses use the same amount of water per job as today.
  • We use the same amount of water indoors and outdoors as today.
  • Water use for yards, parks, and other public spaces does not change.

Results:

  • Annual cost to install and maintain the average yard is $1,700 (same as today).
  • Cost per household for new water projects is $6,700 spread over 35 years.
  • There is no additional cost for conservation.
  • Agricultural production decreases by 9% statewide, and we lose most of our fruit and vegetable production.
  • More diverse water sources protect us from water shortage caused by drought or climate variability.
  • During droughts, water can be taken from yards to meet critical needs.
  • Water withdrawals and loss of natural habitats in the Colorado, Bear, and local river systems continue.

SEAGULL SCENARIO

ScenarioSummary_SG_Water.jpg

Water use per person decreases by 15% from today’s levels, which is 25% less than what was used in 2000. To supply water to our growing population, we build local water projects (wells, tanks, treatment plants, pipelines, efficiency improvements, etc.). We also build the Lake Powell Pipeline to serve southwestern Utah and the Bear River Project to serve the Wasatch Front. These projects use Utah’s remaining rights to the Colorado and Bear Rivers. A significant amount of our water also comes from agricultural lands that are replaced by homes and businesses as our communities grow. By 2050, sufficient water will be either developed or taken from other uses to satisfy new demands and to provide some reserve capacity for protection against droughts.

Water use per person decreases by 15% because:

  • Businesses use about 15% less water per job than today.
  • We use 15% less water indoors and outdoors.
  • Landscaping in yards and public open space use a maximum of 50% grass.

Results:

  • Annual cost to install and maintain the average yard is $1,850 (increase from today’s $1,700), and portions of many existing lawns need to be replaced with low-water plants and drip irrigation, at some expense.
  • Cost per household for new infrastructure is $6,700 spread over 35 years.
  • Relatively low costs for conservation are either borne directly by homeowners (replacing lawns, etc.) or incurred by water providers and added to water rates.
  • Agricultural production decreases by 8% statewide.
  • More diverse water sources provide some reserve capacity for protection against drought or climate variability.
  • During droughts some water can be taken from yards to meet critical needs.
  • Water withdrawals and loss of natural habitats in the Colorado, Bear, and local river systems continue.

Quaking Aspen Scenario

ScenarioSummary_QA_Water.jpg

Water use per person decreases by 25% from today’s levels, which is 35% less than what was used in 2000. To supply water to our growing population, we build local water projects (wells, tanks, treatment plants, pipelines, efficiency improvements, etc.). We also build both the Lake Powell Pipeline to serve southwestern Utah and the Bear River Project to serve the Wasatch Front. These projects would use Utah’s remaining rights to the Colorado and Bear Rivers. Because of reduced demand through water conservation, all or portions of the Bear River Project may be delayed for a decade or more, though the Lake Powell Pipeline may still be required in the near term. As homes and businesses replace agricultural lands, the water from those farms is moved and used to develop new farmland, if such lands can be found. By 2050, sufficient water will either be developed or taken from other uses to satisfy new demands and to provide some reserve capacity for protection against droughts.

Water use per person decreases by 25% because:

  • Businesses use about 25% less water per job than today.
  • We use 25% less water indoors and outdoors.
  • Landscaping in yards and public open spaces uses a maximum of 30% grass.
  • Water use is discouraged through higher water rates and regulatory restrictions.

Results:

  • Annual cost to install and maintain the average yard is $2,050 (increase from today’s $1,700), and large portions of many existing lawns need to be replaced with low-water plants and drip irrigation, at substantial expense.
  • Cost per household for new water projects is $6,500 spread over 35 years.
  • Moderate costs for conservation are either borne directly by homeowners (replacing lawns, etc.) or incurred by water providers and added to water rates.
  • Agricultural production increases by 2% statewide.
  • More diverse water sources protect us from water shortage caused by drought or climate variability.
  • During droughts little water can be taken from yards to meet critical needs.
  • Water withdrawals and loss of natural habitats in the Colorado, Bear, and local river systems continue, though they are somewhat delayed.

Sego Lily Scenario

ScenarioSummary_SL_Water.jpg

Water use per person decreases by 40% from today’s levels, which is 50% less than what was used in 2000. To supply water to our growing population, we build local water projects (wells, tanks, treatment plants, pipelines, efficiency improvements, etc.). Because of dramatic conservation and the significant amount of water supplied from agriculture, we do not need to build the Bear River Project to serve the Wasatch Front before 2050. A significant amount of our water also comes from agricultural lands that are replaced by homes and businesses as our communities grow. In addition, we buy more water from working farms, putting those farms out of production unless we spend money for improved technologies and other means of protecting food production. By 2050, sufficient water will either be developed or taken from other uses to satisfy new demands and to provide some reserve capacity for protection against droughts except in southwestern Utah, which may not have sufficient water supply beyond 2045.

In this scenario, we do not build the Lake Powell Pipeline to serve southwestern Utah. Instead, all water from irrigated farms in Washington and Kane Counties is bought by communities. However, there is still not enough water for southwestern Utah to grow as projected beyond 2045, which will inhibit job and economic growth well before 2045.

If we use only water from farms that are replaced by homes and businesses, there will not be enough water for southwestern Utah to grow as projected beyond the late 2030s. Without the Lake Powell Pipeline, the area cannot accommodate 50,000 to 130,000 of the residents projected to live there in 2050.

Water use per person decreases by 40% because:

  • Businesses use about 40% less water per job than today.
  • We use 40% less water indoors and outdoors.
  • Very little grass is used in landscaping for yards and public open spaces.
  • Water use is discouraged through significantly higher water rates and strict regulatory restrictions.

Results:

  • Annual cost to install and maintain the average yard is $2,150 (increase from today’s $1,700), and existing lawns need to be replaced with low-water plants and drip irrigation, at substantial expense.
  • Cost per household for new infrastructure is $4,500 spread over 35 years.
  • Very high costs for conservation are either borne directly by homeowners (replacing lawns, etc.) or incurred by water providers and added to water rates.
  • Agricultural production decreases by 11% statewide. There are no irrigated farms in Washington and Kane Counties.
  • Lack of diversity in water sources leaves us vulnerable to water shortage caused by drought or climate variability.
  • During droughts little water can be taken from yards to meet critical needs.
  • Loss of natural habitats continues to occur, but at much slower rates. Impacts are lessened on river main stems and distributed more broadly across river tributaries.