Last year’s particularly wet winter coupled with reports that Utah’s drought is “over” may provide a false pretense that Utahns no longer need to worry about water conservation. The truth is, water remains a critical and complex issue impacting the entire state, regardless of winter snowfall totals.
As the second-driest state in the nation with a population expected to double by 2050, Utah’s water availability, need for repair and replacement of existing infrastructure, conservation efforts and significant investment in our state’s water data all must be continually addressed.
What is also critical to understand is the economic aspects of these issues. The business interest in water is fundamental. It touches every sector of our economy from manufacturing to food and beverage to education and small businesses, while also being an essential aspect of many business processes. In addition, this finite resource provides the recreational opportunities and natural beauty that attract great companies and terrific employees to our state, ultimately impacting our regional and global competitiveness.
Ensuring that Utah’s businesses make an impact in addressing our water challenges requires a circular approach. This means that in all their processes, businesses find ways to keep resources moving throughout the supply chain, such as water reuse. Adopting and scaling these circular water management practices will help support the necessary repair, investment and public-private partnerships needed for achieving infrastructure resilience and ensuring Utah’s businesses and communities can thrive over the long term.
In conjunction with Utah’s Water Week, the Salt Lake Chamber, in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, is hosting the annual Utah: Water is Your Business Forum as an opportunity for business leaders and other stakeholders to join in the discussion regarding this circular approach to water. Learning about and discussing best management practices in water stewardship, infrastructure and new innovation and technology will help our state’s businesses continue to lead the way in creatively addressing Utah’s water challenges.
There are many businesses across the state that already demonstrate leadership with water innovation, optimization and conservation efforts. For example, Orbit Irrigation Products estimates that it has saved millions of gallons of water through the production and promotion of smart irrigation products and easy to understand tools that help change the watering behavior of its customers.
Swire Coca-Cola also understands the importance of a circular approach to water. The company’s Replenish program works to implement conservation projects that restore the water supplies of natural water bodies like rivers, wetlands and aquifers. In 2016, it returned approximately 272 million liters of water to nature and communities across several western states.
Businesses also play a role in solving agricultural and residential water challenges. For example, Chanshare Sod Farms focuses on water conservation through collaborative research and education. Through this research and advancements in technology, its sod is watered using a computerized, pressurized system that carefully monitors flow and output, ultimately decreasing the farm’s amount of water used to less than half of what average homeowners would use to maintain their landscapes.
As Utah’s business leader, the Salt Lake Chamber takes a proactive approach to adding the business community’s voice to key policy discussions regarding Utah’s water future. This includes pushing for greater investment in the state’s water data, advocating for aggressive conservation through tiered-pricing, supporting new tools to address aging infrastructure costs and developing a more adaptive water strategy.
By recognizing that water is an economic and not just an environmental issue, Utah businesses are stepping up and doing their part to help ensure our state has a strong water future in addition to a high quality of life, excellent business climate and robust economy.
Lane Beattie is the President & CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber. Jennifer M. Gerholdt is the Senior Director of Sustainability and Circular Economy Programs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Corporate Citizenship Center.