Can Life in Utah Get Better as Our Population Grows?

Utah's population is growing 2.5 times faster than that of the nation. The state's population doubled over the last three decades and is projected to increase by another 2.5 million residents by 2050. 

About 80 percent of those new residents will settle along the Wasatch Front. They'll be your kids, your grandkids, your co-workers and your friends.

"Just like you, they'll need power, water, homes, schools, jobs, places to shop, places to play and ways to get between them all," says Ari Bruening, COO at Envision Utah. "This is nothing new. Utah has a history of growth, and a successful track record of planning for the future. It's part of why the quality of life here has remained so high. How do we keep it that way?"

As a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to exploring the challenges and opportunities of growth in Utah, Envision Utah engages people to create and sustain communities that are beautiful, prosperous, healthy and neighborly for current and future residents. "With the right vision, we can accommodate Utah's growing economy and increasing population without sacrificing the incredible quality of life that makes Utah great," continues Bruening.

In 1997, Envision Utah launched an unprecedented public effort that brought together residents, elected officials, developers, conservationists, business leaders, and other interested parties to make informed decisions about how Utah should grow. Through a historic series of workshops and surveys, Envision Utah helped lay the groundwork for actions including:

  • Development of TRAX and Frontrunner to add 140 miles of light rail, streetcar and commuter rail to Utah
  • Creation of innovative housing and commercial projects like Daybreak and City Creek
  • Dramatically slowing the rate of development of Utah's lands to preserve more open space for agriculture and recreation
  • Decreasing household water consumption by 25 percent
  • Decreasing our emissions by 47 percent among all pollutants
  • Saving billions in reduced infrastructure costs

Now, with Utah's population projected to grow by 2.5 million in the next three decades, Envision Utah is making history again with the Your Utah Your Future project, a statewide process that invites the public to get involved and decide how Utah will grow. Gov. Gary Herbert kicked off the effort in October 2013 and is set to kick off the public involvement process this fall.

As Bruening explains, Your Utah Your Future is tackling eleven key issues:

  • Air Quality: Considering one of the most visible consequences of growth in Utah can be seen in the air we breathe, how do we clear the air?
  • Education: How do we improve student performance and give children the knowledge and skills they'll need to compete in a strong economy?
  • Energy and Infrastructure: As Utah continues to grow, how will we find new ways to supply enough energy for everyone at affordable costs?
  • Housing and Cost of Living: How we can ensure people at different stages of life, with a wide range of incomes, can afford a good quality of life?
  • Jobs and Economy: With one of the strongest economies in the country, how do we maintain a broad spectrum of good jobs?
  • Natural Lands: How do we balance the competing uses of our natural lands, like recreation, habitat, and energy production?
  • Recreation: How can we make sure Utahns and our many visitors always have access to amazing places to play?
  • Agriculture: How do we preserve Utah's rich legacy of farming to provide healthy, locally produced food?
  • Transportation and Communities: How do we reduce gridlock and provide well thought-out communities that place citizens closer to the things they need?
  • Water: How will we provide sufficient water in one of the country's driest states, even as our population continues to grow?
  • Disaster Resilience: How will we make sure our economy and quality of life stay strong in the weeks, months and years following a catastrophe?

Bruening says the Your Utah Your Future project has four steps. First, a broad range of stakeholders and experts will identify choices and solutions for key issues and show the results of these choices. Next Envision Utah will conduct an extensive public outreach campaign so Utahns can get involved and pick the choices that matter the most to them. After the outreach campaign, the public's choices will become a vision and a plan to be documented and released publicly. Envision Utah will empower Utah communities to turn their visions into real and lasting actions that will help keep Utah great.

Envision Utah's goal is to make history by involving 50,000 Utah citizens to create a voice for the future that's strong enough to drive positive action. To do this, Bruening says the organization needs help to get the word out. Starting this fall, Envision Utah will be doing workshops around the state and releasing online games through which people can learn about the issues and share their choices for 2050. Look for more information to be released about how you can help spread the word. For more information, please contact Envision Utah at 801-303-1450 or[email protected].