Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014

Utahns have serious concerns on air quality, low river levels, poll shows

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue, Deseret News

Published: Sun, Feb. 16 1:51 p.m. MST

 A new poll tapping conservation-themed attitudes of registered voters in six states reveals that Utahns — much more than their neighbors — believe air quality is a extremely or very serious concern. They also worry about low river levels.

A new poll tapping conservation-themed attitudes of registered voters in six states reveals that Utahns — much more than their neighbors — believe air quality is a extremely or very serious concern. They also worry about low river levels.

(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's registered voters are drastically more worried about air quality than their neighbors in five other western states, with more than two thirds in a recent poll indicating it is an extremely or very serious problem.

That finding by the Conservation in the West Poll released Thursday stands in "stark" contrast to the perceptions detailed by the rest of the region, with only 32 percent of respondents agreeing that the problem is that significant.

The poll commissioned by the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project tapped attitudes of 2,400 registered voters in six western states.

Over the years, the poll has demonstrated that Utah residents have had sustained concerns over air quality, with the majority of those surveyed consistently ranking air pollution as a very serious problem.

While temperature inversions are a routine visitor each winter season, air pollution has become a major issue of concern both from a public health standpoint and for public policy makers in Utah.

Gov. Gary Herbert convened a Clean Air Action Team last fall, which has begun to deliver a list of recommendations to combat the problem, including enhancing restrictions on wood burning, accelerating a move to cleaner gasoline, and allowing regulators to embrace measures that may differ from the federal government.

In addition, a flurry of bills have been introduced in the Utah Legislature in an attempt to address the Wasatch Front's pollution problem, which has been repeatedly identified as a possible impediment to economic growth.

In Utah and elsewhere across the West, low river levels emerged as a major problem, second only to unemployment. The poll found that four in five residents in the region say the problem is serious, with half agreeing that it is an extremely or very serious problem.

Utah, like its other upper Colorado River basin neighbors such as Wyoming and Colorado, also favor using current water supplies more wisely and emphasizing conservation over any new diversions.

In Utah, only 12 percent of those polled favor diverting water from less populated areas and delivering it to where more people are concentrated.

Those results were welcomed by conservation groups and environmentalists who argue the river is already overtapped and should not be supporting any diversions.

"These poll results strongly indicate that voters in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming want to protect the headwaters of the Colorado River and reject new dams and diversions," said Gary Wockner, coordinator with the Save the Colorado River Campaign. "As we move forward in this 'new normal' era of drought and climate change, we need an additional 'new normal' in leadership that invests in protecting and restoring the Colorado River ecosystem through water conservation, efficiency and recycling."

Aside from air quality, Utah stood out in responses on public lands issues and the federal government.

Pollsters noted that Utah residents were the most likely — at 89 percent — to say that closure of public lands during the federal shutdown hurt small businesses and the economy. A third of Utah residents said the closures left them "annoyed" and another quarter were "angry."

Email: amyjoi@deseretnews.com

Twitter: amyjoi16

1. liberty or ...?
Ogden, UT,
Feb. 14, 2014

What part of you live in a high elevation mountain valley that technically still is classified as a DESERT did you people miss on the way in? Inversion has been happening since before we arrived and yes Deserts are not meant to house a lot of people without bringing in supplies from somewhere else. I suggest new products that are technicaly advanced and still meet the needs of the consumer be engineered or we build massive air filters instead of more laws and controlling regulations. You know produce green technology that actually meets the demand? And as for the water how about Coastal states start investing there green dollars into salt water purification plants instead of taking ours. Just a thought

2. casual observer
Salt Lake City, UT,
Feb. 15, 2014

If we truly cared about water we would treat it as a precious resource and not a low priced commodity that has an endless supply. Some Utah cities require citizens to cultivate lawns that require water and fertilizers. We water sidewalks and streets and provide no incentive to zero-scape our homes. Water is still not a priority in most peoples minds. If it were, serious concerns would be translated into serious action.

3. Brave Sir Robin
San Diego, CA,
Feb. 16, 2014

There have always been inversions, but until we started emitting pollutants the inversions were only cold and fog. Now we have carbon monoxide and other nasties trapped with it. Nobody's claiming we can get rid of inversions, but we can get rid of the stuff in them that's slowly killing us.

Want to save a lot of water? Here's an idea: Get rid of golf courses. Every 9 holes of golf require about a million gallons of water EACH DAY. Banning golf would go a long way to solving our water woes. It's a silly, simple-minded game anyway.

4. one old man
Ogden, UT,
Feb. 16, 2014

And some among us deny climate change. Amazing!

5. Utes Fan
Salt Lake City, UT,
Feb. 16, 2014

Citizens of Utah need to be informed on how water in the state gets used. 85% of the state's water gets used by irrigators. When I see huge fields of alfalfa being watered by gigantic sprinklers in the afternoon on a clear day in 95 degree weather all summer long I wonder.

Do people realize that in 2012 all summer long water users released historically high flows of water out of Jordanelle Reservoir? And 2012 was a serious drought year so why did so much water get released that summer? Shouldn't water flows have been at least normal at the most in a drought year?

Be informed. Water waste is not just your neighbor watering a green lawn. There is so much more to it.