During the 2022 Utah legislative session, HB 429 was passed. This bill directed the Division of Water Resources to develop and implement the Great Salt Lake Watershed Integrated Water Assessment.
In addition to this, the division was also awarded a WaterSMART grant in December 2022 to develop a Great Salt Lake Basin Study. With similar objectives aimed at better understanding the complex water supply and demand in the Great Salt Lake Basin, these two projects have merged to become the Great Salt Lake Basin Integrated Plan.
These combined projects will help to ensure a resilient water supply for Great Salt Lake and its watershed by:
- Assessing current surface and groundwater supply in the Great Salt Lake Basin
- Forecasting future water demands
- Investigating potential benefits of forest management and watershed restoration
- Coordinating efforts to quantify and incorporate demand into the water supply and demand model
- Identifying and evaluating best management practices to provide a reliable water supply
- Analyzing the trade-offs in relation to impacts on water users throughout the basin and avoiding deterioration of agriculture, industry and ecosystems
- Recommending actionable strategies to the holistic management of water resources
The objective of the Great Salt Lake Basin Integrated Plan is to ensure a resilient water supply in the Great Salt Lake Basin. Within a three-year timeframe, the Division of Water Resources will combine and enhance existing water resource management tools from across the basin to complete a state-of-the-art water supply and demand study. The integrated plan will collaboratively explore options to address water supply imbalances, increase supply reliability and avoid degradation of the vital Great Salt Lake ecosystem. In addition, it will include a strategy trade-off analysis within each river basin to assess the costs and benefits of meeting different water resource related goals.
The development of a collective assessment and planning tool encompassing the entire Great Salt Lake Basin is a massive undertaking that has never been completed before. Thus, the project will be completed in two phases. Phase one will develop a workplan to lay out the approach for completing the Great Salt Lake Basin Integrated Plan. This workplan will be completed by November 2023. Phase two will then initiate the longer process of creating the actionable Integrated Plan, which will conclude in late 2026.
The workplan for the Great Salt Lake Basin Integrated Plan will synthesize existing information, literature and data across the watershed related to water quantity and quality, water use, water demand, surface and groundwater diversions, depletions and return flows. In addition to creating a “situational assessment” of current conditions, the workplan will also provide guidance on the communication and collaboration that will be required to successfully involve stakeholders in the watershed.
Objectives of the Workplan:
- Lay out the approach for completing the integrated plan
- Identify parallel efforts to eliminate redundancies and capitalize on opportunities
- Engage stakeholders and build consensus
- Catalog previous projects
- Define remaining questions
- Identify and prioritize necessary studies, schedules and costs
After the workplan is complete, development of the Great Salt Lake Basin Integrated Plan can begin. We will answer complex questions, such as:
- What is the present Great Salt Lake Basin water supply?
- How much water does Great Salt Lake need to thrive?
- What are groundwater contributions within the basin?
- How much water will people need in the future?
- How much will our environment need?
The plan will then analyze a range of adaptation and mitigation strategies that could ensure a reliable water supply in varied conditions. Ultimately, water users and policymakers will gain a comprehensive foundation to understand their roles in the watershed and make decisions.
The United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) plays a critical role in helping stakeholders address and plan for water supply and imbalances. Comprehensive basin studies are intended to bring together competing interests within river basins to identify collaborative solutions to water management challenges. In December 2022, the Division of Water Resources was awarded $3.1 million in funding to assist with the development of a Basin Study through technical assistance and tool development. Due to the collaborative nature of the work promoted by USBR, the division is able to combine the Basin Study and the Integrated Water Assessment into one large-scale, state-of-the-art analysis of water resources in the Great Salt Lake Basin.
Brian Steed, Great Salt Lake Commissioner
Trevor Nielson, Bear River Canal Company
Connely Baldwin, Rocky Mountain Power
Jon Parry, Weber Basin Conservancy District
Laura Briefer, Salt Lake City Public Utilities
Jack Ray, Utah Waterfowl Association
Derek Bruton, Central Utah Water Conservancy District
Scott Sandall, Utah Legislature
Nathan Daugs, Cache Water District
Marcelle Shoop, National Audubon Society
Lynn de Freitas, FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake
Søren Simonsen, Jordan River Commission
Dave Decker, Provo City
Casey Snider, Utah Legislature
Wade Garrett, Utah Farm Bureau
Brent Tanner, Utah Cattlemen's Association
Joe Havasi, Compass Minerals
David Tarboton, Utah State University
Tim Hawkes, Great Salt Lake Artemia
Jeff Young, Ensign Ranch
Dustin Jansen, Utah Division of Indian Affairs
Jacob Young, Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District
Jess Kirby, Summit County
Bear River Canal Company
Ogden River Water Users' Association
Bear River Water Conservancy District
Provo River Water Users Association
Central Utah Water Conservancy District
Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities
Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District
Weber Basin Water Conservancy District
Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake & Sandy
National Audubon Society
The Nature Conservancy
FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake
Academic and Advising
Great Salt Lake Advisory Council
Utah State University
University of Utah
Idaho Department of Water Resources
Utah Division of Water Quality
Utah Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands
Utah Geological Survey
Utah Division of Water Resources
Wyoming Office of State Engineer
Utah Division of Water Rights
US Bureau of Reclamation
US Geological Survey
US Fish and Wildlife Service
Would you like to learn more about the Basin Integrated Plan? Do you have research or information you would like to contribute?