Getting People To Move Where There’s More Water
Another thing that would help greatly would be to curb population growth along the Wasatch Front. No, you’re never going to talk Mormons into having fewer kids, but their leaders could talk them into not treating Utah like it’s the “promised land” that people must “emigrate” to, or stay in if they live there. While this idea hasn’t been officially taught by the Mormon church since 1900, the idea that good Mormons should move to Utah, or that you’d feel better living with other Mormons, continues to this day. Telling Mormons living outside Utah to stay put, and telling people in Utah that it’s good to move out into the “mission field” could help slow the population growth in the area.
It might also be possible to get many Mormons to move to Kansas City. Why? Because there’s another Mormon prophecy that says that Jackson County, Missouri (just outside of Kansas City) is where the gathering is supposed to take place. One Mormon scripture even says that the “wilderness shall bloom” not in Utah, but there in Missouri.
Giving The Lake A Voice
One of the big problems with water policy in the western United States is that nature doesn’t get a seat at the table. A river’s users take everything they can, and anything that runs the course of the river is considered wasted, because somebody upstream could have used it. This leaves the whole process with a perverse incentive to dry up the lake, because nobody wants to not have enough for future needs.
When these discussions happen, the lake’s needs should be part of the discussion, and it should probably be the first thing considered before dividing the remaining water up. Nobody wants to bring the lake back up to 1990 flood levels, but bringing it back up to the average historical level of 4200 feet should be the goal.
The Role of Clean Technologies
Beyond culture and belief, clean technologies can also play a big role in keeping the lake filled up as the population grows.
Toilets are particularly wasteful of water, as I’ve explored a lot in this series of articles. Getting even a small percentage of people to try alternatives could help keep a lot more clean water in the rivers and into the lake. There’s no religious teaching saying one must use a flush toilet.
Another thing that could help is getting farmers to switch to less thirsty crops. Agriculture is actually declining in Utah by about 30 acres per day as housing and businesses pave over farms, but the remaining agricultural operations could be more efficient while still supporting their owners. Water thirsty crops could just as easily be grown in parts of the country that aren’t having problems with a drying lakebed next door.
One final thing we can do to help save places like the Bonneville Salt Flats is to find alternatives to potash. If there were less need for potash, the thinning salt flats could stabilize and stop releasing the reddish dust that is starting to come from that area. It would also lead to less need for the dangerous potash canals that tempt recreational users, unaware of the toxic dangers in these bright blue canals.
One way to reduce potash use is to cut back on synthetic fertilizers. More composting of food waste, along with alternatives to sewers that allow composting instead of just dumping the waste, could help reduce the need for potash. Some of this (especially the toilets) is likely to inspire a lot of resistance, but people generally aren’t aware of the effects of potash production, despite how important it currently is.
Here’s a great video that shows all of the uses for potash, as well as its history and importance:
One other thing we need to be careful to avoid is the use of potassium-ion batteries in the future. They provide a promising alternative to lithium-ion cells, but come at the cost of the need to destroy even more dry lakebed environment to build them.
Between conservation and innovative technology, there’s still plenty of room to make the Salt Lake Great again. Heck, somebody, please use that slogan. It would probably catch on in conservative Utah.
Here’s a list of the earlier articles in this series, in case you want to go back:
Featured Image: In aerial imagery provided by Google, you can see disappearing salt starting to expose the reddish dust beneath it, a process that likely happened slowly near El Paso.