July 11, 2023

League of Women Voters of Utah: Current Water Issues in Utah Report

April 2023

This report examines water issues in Utah, focusing on Great Salt Lake and the Colorado River Basin.

Click here to read the full report.

Executive Summary

The timing of this report on Utah’s water shortages may seem ironic given the record level of snowfall during the winter of 2022-2023. However, upon undertaking this effort, Great Salt Lake was nearing its unprecedented low elevation of 4,188 feet, Lake Powell was 24% full, and the West was experiencing a 20+ year mega-drought. One exceptional water year will not erase the deficits of the last 20 yrs. In addition, long-term projections indicate that pressures on the state’s water supplies will increase as the population expands and the climate continues to warm. Brad Wilson, speaker of the Utah House of Representatives, described Utah’s water status at the 2023 Wallace Stegner Symposium on Great Salt Lake, “[This winter] is good news, but we’ll still be one of the driest states in the nation. In my mind, the effort has just begun. If we don’t conserve water in years of plenty, our efforts are going to go nowhere.”The Legislature proclaimed 2022 as “The Year of Water” and numerous bills were passed to allow flexibility in utilizing water rights, to encourage water conservation in agriculture and residential use, to set an example of conservation on state properties, and to promote better coordination of water and land uses. The crisis in Great Salt Lake was addressed directly by establishing the Great Salt Lake Watershed Trust and appropriating $40 million to buy or lease water rights to benefit the lake. Legislative efforts to address water issues continued in 2023 and are highlighted throughout the report and summarized in the section on Utah Water Law and Regulations.

Study Team

Jan Striefel and Norma Wills, Team Leads

Jennifer Barrett, Vidalia Cornwall, Tina Hose, Linda Johnson, Marcie McCleary, Nicola Nelson, Kathryn Shanks, and Nancy Wingelaar


Marcie McCleary

About the League of Women Voters

The League of Women Voters is a non‐partisan, non‐profit political organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government. We work to increase understanding of major public policy issues and influence public policy through education and advocacy.