Gov. Cox put new water rights on hold. Will it actually help the Great Salt Lake?
Gov. Spencer Cox announced this month that all new water rights in the Great Salt Lake Basin are on pause, given the lake’s crisis situation. The move sounds big, sweeping and dramatic — it applies to the lake’s main tributaries that drain nearly 10,000 square miles in Utah. Still, it’s hard to say how much of a difference it will make for the Great Salt Lake, which has continued to shrink after hitting another record low over the summer, almost entirely due to Utah’s water diversions. The governor’s current suspension only applies to new water right applications and does not interfere with existing ones. New water rights would be the most junior with the lowest priority anyway. And in periods of drought, junior water right holders sometimes don’t get to divert any water at all.