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Utah partners with nonprofit to address declining Salt Lake water level

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(The Center Square) – There’s a new partnership to save the Great Salt Lake.

The effort between the nonprofit Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) and the Utah Office of the Great Salt Lake Commissioner comes two years after the lake reached its lowest record level. Both parties will work to identify steps to try to address declining levels.

“Ongoing drought throughout the western U.S. is one major reason for low lake levels, as well as climatic and anthropogenic factors,” Dr. Katherine Wright, PERC senior researcher, told The Center Square. “Much of the water is held in agriculture as well.”

Wright added that any attempt to divert water for lake refill should collaborate and work with this key stakeholder.

“PERC recognizes the valuable role our private landowners play in stewarding their land and natural resources, viewing them as our partners in conservation,” said Wright. “Voluntary transfers conserve water on the water rights holder’s terms, compensating them fairly and engaging them as equal partners.”

This is not PERC’s first time working in or keeping tabs on Utah. The organization has written about the role water markets can play in helping conserve this resource in Utah. PERC championed Representative Joel Ferry and Senator Scott Sandall’s 2022 bill (House Bill 33) that formally recognized instream flows as a beneficial use of water.

“This bill not only lifted the punishment for leaving water in stream but also allowed water rights holders to be rewarded by leasing excess water to outside organizations for conservation purposes,” said Wright.

Great Salt Lake Deputy Commissioner Tim Davis said his office values PERC’s “creative thinking and expertise” while working with water users to voluntarily get more water to the Great Salt Lake.

“They will equip us with the information we need to make meaningful progress toward getting the lake to the healthy range.”

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