Twenty years ago, 97% of the water in the world was seawater and 3% freshwater. Two-thirds of the freshwater was stored in glaciers. The remaining freshwater was split between surface water and groundwater, with groundwater constituting almost 99%. During the past 20 years, glaciers have melted at an average of 13% per decade. Also in the past 20 years, Utah’s neighboring states, including Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Idaho and the coastal states of California, Washington and Oregon have been in severe to extreme drought. 

In response to the drought, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has proposed $1 billion to build a plant in the Gulf of Mexico. The water from this plant would be used by Mexico in exchange for a portion of Mexico’s share of the Colorado River. The $1 billion is not enough for a desalination plant. In 2012, the city of Melbourne constructed a plant for $3.3 billion.

Utah, likewise a state dependent upon the Colorado River and part of an interstate compact governing the Colorado River, is a natural partner for Arizona. Recent and alarming measurements of remaining water in Lake Powell should provide a compelling sense of urgency for Utah and Arizona.

Richard Williams