UTAH (ABC4) – Governor Spencer Cox is on a statewide tour meeting Utahans and learning more about their concerns. He spent Thursday in Cache County. In the afternoon, he stopped at Utah State University where more than 200 students submitted questions for him to answer. The day’s theme centered around water conservation and the drought.
“I think that we need to have more constant conversation with those that do this research and those that make the decisions,” Brian Steed told ABC4. Steed is the executive director of the Janet Quinney Lawson Institute for Land, Water & Air at Utah State University. He hosted the Q&A for Gov. Cox.
Researchers at USU play a vital role in conducting environmental research across the state that ultimately helps lawmakers during legislative sessions. Much of the information we currently know about the drought’s effects on the Great Salt Lake can be credited to the university. Steed believes the relationship between researchers and lawmakers needs to be stronger and information needs to be relayed in a more streamlined fashion. He added: “So that we can actually link up those brainiacs with the policy makers and get that synergy together.”
Some of those brainiacs come in the form of current USU students. Students are often involved in research that’s conducted at the school. On Thursday afternoon, more than 200 students showed up to listen to Governor Cox as he answered their previously submitted questions.
The students asked a variety of questions, but the day’s theme seemed to be centered around water conservation. Gov. Cox stated, “Really, we’ve never focused on water conservation, I mean, since like 1847 when they really needed lots of water.” He told students that it is now changing. During the last legislative session, 12 new laws focused on conservation were passed. He said this year will most likely see even more of those laws get passed, and he credited this to the public’s increasing concern for the Great Salt Lake and Utah’s drought.
“Getting water to the end of the row,” Gov. Cox said as he explained the way water rights used to be handled in Utah. He continued, “Getting it to the Great Salt Lake was not considered beneficial use. They changed that. Now it is considered beneficial use and we put $40 million aside.”
That money is being used to study best practices to save the lake and he explained that another $70 million is being used on technology that will help agriculture cut back on water. He told students agriculture is not being given a free pass during the drought. He even went so far as to say that the idea of cash rich farmers making immeasurable fortunes during the drought is just not true. Nonetheless, he said there is a lot of work to be done when it comes to improving farming practices. Especially since there is no way of telling how long this drought will last.
“My philosophy has been this: we have to act as though this is going to continue,” Cox said. “We just do, and Utahans are.”