For Salt Lake Community College’s 24th annual Tanner Forum on Social Ethics, which took place Oct. 25, prominent law professor and water resource expert Robert Glennon took the stage at the Grand Theatre to discuss “water in the west” — and why protecting its water supply is imperative.
This year’s Tanner Forum was the second to be held in person since the COVID-19 pandemic began. At each forum, a chosen expert explores an issue related to social ethics and then takes questions in a moderated Q&A session.
Glennon, a University of Arizona law and policy professor and best-selling author, has advised governments and non-governmental organizations internationally on water sustainability. Glennon is also a regular contributing analyst at major publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post, among others.
Glennon’s Oct. 25 lecture, titled “Water in the West,” explored water use, conservation methods and the importance of being knowledgeable about both when living in a dry state like Utah. He identified five solution areas that the United States – specifically states such as Utah, Arizona and California – need to focus on in order to make sure the populace has access to water in the future.
“We need the moral courage and political will to act,” Glennon said as he stood in front of a projected image of a shrinking Great Salt Lake. The lake has seen its water levels decline in recent years, reaching its lowest recorded point – 4,188.2 feet – last November.
Glennon’s five solution areas, which he also explores in his 2009 book, “Unquenchable,” are conservation, reuse, desalination, pricing and reallocation. His experience as a law and policy professor, as well as living in the West, informed his points.
While some of those solutions, like conservation, can be tackled by the consumer, Glennon said, other areas, like pricing, desalination and reuse, must be facilitated by the government working together with communities and corporations that use large amounts of water.
Glennon’s speech lasted an hour and was followed by an on-stage Q&A session moderated by Maura Hahnenberger, associate professor of geosciences at SLCC. Attendees posed questions for Glennon, asking, for instance, what individuals can do to conserve water and the logistics of desalination and reuse operations.
One attendee, anthropology major and sophomore at SLCC Kasia Wozniak, said the lecture helped her with a research project she’s working on, in which she’s investigating dissolved oxygen and metal levels in Millcreek. Wozniak is experimenting with geology, adopting it as a second major, and particulates in water sources and basins are a major branch of geological studies.
“I’m going [to use] a probe in order to study those waters and see where the problem areas are,” Wozniak said. “It’s entirely new to me. I’ve been in a field studies class and [have been] doing my project out in the field, and I realized I had an interest in [water], so my [geology] professor recommended I come tonight.”
After Glennon’s lecture, Wozniak joined other attendees in a line outside the Grand Theatre, where Glennon was set up at a table signing copies of his book, “Unquenchable.”
According to the Tanner Forum on Social Ethics webpage, the event is made possible by support from the O.C. Tanner company and is presented by SLCC Arts and Cultural Events. The forum will return next fall with a new topic of focus.