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Great Salt Lake is at its lowest water level on record and continues to shrink. Utah Public Radio has teamed up with more than a dozen Utah organizations for the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a group that has come together to share multimedia stories and rigorous reports about the lake and ways to protect this critical body of water before it's too late.

Utah Governor addresses water-use criticisms amid continuing megadrought

Utah governor Spencer Cox sits on a chair in a large room with light green walls, yellow drapes, and a grand piano in the background. He gestures to someone off screen.
Francisco Kjolseth
The Salt Lake Tribune
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox sits down for an interview at the governor’s mansion to talk about the ongoing drought and the Great Salt Lake on Tuesday, July 19, 2022.

With Utah and other western states entering their 22nd year of below-average precipitation, Utah has been criticized for being one of the western US’s highest water consumers per capita.

Utah Governor Spencer Cox spoke this Tuesday with the Great Salt Lake Collaborative about Utah water conservation, and addressed the criticism we’ve faced as a state.

“I think it is a fair criticism that we haven't been as effective as we should have been in the past, when it comes to conserving water, and specifically the Great Salt Lake. So, I think we should be open to criticism, and that means we can do better,” Cox said. “We actually had an abundance of water for 175 years…and I think we got a little lackadaisical. Why conserve when you don’t have to?”

Fortunately, Cox said, the needle is beginning to shift when it comes to reducing our water consumption.

“Last year was the best year we've ever had for conservation. And we saw some new numbers for Salt Lake County just yesterday, that showed that they're well ahead of last year when it comes to conservation. So people are getting the point…and they're making those conscious decisions to change the way that they water their lawns to change how they use that water in more productive ways,” Cox said.

A study published this year by researchers at Columbia University suggests the megadrought we’re experiencing may continue, even into 2029. To weather such a prolonged dry period, Cox pushed for us to do more, both at a legislative level and a personal level.

“I think that there's more that we have to do. And so you're going to see several bills this year, we're working on those right now. We're in discussions about what those will look like, how we can get more funding, how we can move up some of the some of the projects that we have slated to do. But what we're seeing out there is that this is a human change that has to happen. It's a paradigm shift, not just with lawmakers, although we need to make that shift with lawmakers as well, and that’s hard too,” Cox said.

You can hear the full interview with Governor Cox at

This article is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, asolutions journalism initiative that partners news, education and mediaorganizations to help inform people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake—and what can be done to make a difference before it is too late. Read all of our stories at

Aimee Van Tatenhove is a science reporter at UPR. She spends most of her time interviewing people doing interesting research in Utah and writing stories about wildlife, new technologies and local happenings. She is also a PhD student at Utah State University, studying white pelicans in the Great Salt Lake, so she thinks about birds a lot! She also loves fishing, skiing, baking, and gardening when she has a little free time.