Land, Water and Air Report
There was another report recently published on Utah’s health and environment, this one from the Institute for Land, Water and Air. “This report serves as a 2023 snapshot of key issues and concerns with Utah’s shared resources. It highlights gathered data that is available to provide context to these issues, as well as identifies areas where more study is needed,” the executive summary of the report writes.
In the section on air quality, the report highlights concerns of increasing dust from Great Salt Lake. UPHE is active in a lawsuit with coalition partners to hold that state of Utah accountable for improving the health of the lake.
Also in terms of air quality, Utah’s inversion season may have seen a bit of an improvement (still at unhealthy levels), but overall air quality along the Wasatch Front is declining due to increases in summertime ozone.
The air quality section also included recommendations for smarter pesticide management. The report focuses on farmers’ use of pesticides, but UPHE is vocal about the misuse of pesticides at a local and state level through mosquito abatement districts across the state. This is an irresponsible use of pesticides that increases exposure to unnecessary health risks for thousands of people.
On air quality, the report writes “Research indicates that breathing Utah’s polluted air for a day is comparable to smoking up to five cigarettes.”
The land section covers risk to Utah’s wildplaces posed by wildfires. UPHE has been advocating against the practice or prescribed burns, due to health impacts of woodsmoke and the studied counterproductiveness of the practice. This report states that burns should be very carefully selected and aren’t useful in all climates or circumstances. “The burnable mulch left after shredding and the downed wood from cutting can increase the risk of high-temperature ground fires, which may damage desirable plants and seeds by causing the fire on the ground to burn hotter and longer.”
The report highlighted that a particularly wet year helped the state’s water situation, although significant conservation and tracking are required to preserve this trend, as we can’t count on exceptional years each year. Although residential water use is a small portion of water use across the state, it was one of the highest per capita in the country.
The state has a long way to go in transferring to cleaner sources for energy. A KSL article summarized the report’s information on energy, writing “according to the Federal Energy Information Administration, 53% of Utah’s electricity production came from coal-fired power plants in 2022. An additional 26% came from natural gas-fired power in that same time frame.”