Threats to Utah’s snowpack levels are the biggest climate change challenge facing Salt Lake City. And “the canary in the coalmine” of Salt Lake City is not alone – cities and states across the nation are dealing with low water supplies, the expectation of more shortages in the future, and an aging water infrastructure in need of significant repair.
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker addressed these challenges at last week’s National League of Cities (NLC) Congressional City Conference in Washington, D.C. “As President of NLC, I recognize the importance of leading by example and have called on the NLC membership to become an ‘army of advocates’ to work with the federal government to assist and support state, local, and tribal action on climate change.” The City has been successful in tying climate action to local air quality, while actively investing in a portfolio of programs and policies including renewable energy, energy and transportation efficiency, building policies and code revisions, water conservation, and carbon footprint reductions.
Since the effects of climate change are being felt most urgently at the community level within our nation, as local government leaders we must proactively plan for resiliency, minimize threats to the health of our families, and ensure the future livability of our neighborhoods. Like Salt Lake City’s leaders, it’s important that we communicate with our own constituents about local climate impacts, and collaborate together with our nonprofit, business, and faith communities to rally public support where more action is needed.
As the Northeast starts to emerge from its winter whites, other areas in the country are questioning whether it actually snowed enough this year.
Threats to Utah’s snowpack levels are the biggest climate change challenge facing Salt Lake City, according to Mayor Ralph Becker, a member of the President’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience and this year’s National League of Cities president.
“The way we provide all of our water for well over a century now is changing,” he told ThinkProgress after Monday’s general session at the National League of Cities Conference in Washington, D.C., which focused on how climate change is affecting infrastructure across the nation.
Utah is the second-most arid state in the nation, and its water supply comes largely from the snowpack left in the surrounding mountains at the end of winter.
“We have built all our infrastructure for water around the snowpack,” Becker said.
And as of this month, Salt Lake City’s snowpack is at 69 percent of the 30-year average, according to the National Resources Conservation Center.