Baseline Scenario: Executive Summary

The Greater Wasatch Area includes a 10-county region along the front and back of the Wasatch Mountain Range and can reasonably be considered the commutershed for the Salt Lake-Ogden and Provo-Orem metropolitan areas. The area includes 10-counties, 98 cities, and 157 special service districts. These multiple jurisdictions, along with state government and the Utah Transit Authority, share responsibility for providing infrastructure and services to 1.6 million people. The steady and rapid population growth within the region places increasing demands on these entities. The growth also places a strain on the environment because of the unique geographical layout of the area which is bounded by mountain ranges and water bodies and includes land that is essentially arid.

The Quality Growth Efficiency Tools (QGET) Technical Committee, whose mission it is to improve the quality of information available about Utah's future, has authored this baseline to provide a comprehensive depiction of what current projections indicate regarding the demographic, economic, transportation, air quality, water, and land use future of the Greater Wasatch Area. The purpose of a baseline is to provide a benchmark against which the effects of alternative future actions can be evaluated. This baseline will be used by the Quality Growth Partnership to design alternative scenarios which QGET will also analyze. It is a work in progress and will be revised and updated over time.

Demographics and Economics
The Greater Wasatch Area is projected to increase from 1.6 million people in 1995 (a population slightly smaller than the Portland metro area) to 2.7 million by 2020 (a population roughly equivalent to the current San Diego metro area.) By 2050 an estimated 5.0 million people will live in the area, a population similar to the current size of Philadelphia.

The projections to 2020 indicate a population growth rate approximately twice the national average. Two-thirds of the new growth is projected to originate from residents' own children and grandchildren. The population is projected to increase by an average of 43,000 new residents a year, a population about the current size of Bountiful. Throughout the projection period the economy is projected to create more than enough jobs for residents, although slowdowns are anticipated after the current construction boom subsides and following the 2002 Winter Olympics.

The use of roads in the Greater Wasatch Area is projected to increase at a faster rate than that of population. This is projected to occur as residents continue to increase vehicle ownership, drive farther for work trips, and make more non-work trips. While the current investment will improve the transportation system's performance in the early years, over the entire 25 year period average speeds are projected to decline from 29 mph to 23 mph and minutes of delay per trip increase from 4.4 to 9.7. This means that the average commute in 1995 of 24 minutes will increase to 34 minutes in 2020. The performance of the transportation system, however, would be far worse without the current levels of investment. Average speeds in the Salt Lake-Ogden area would decline to 12 mph in 2020 without the additional capacity investments identified in the transportation plans.

Transportation infrastructure investment is projected to exceed $9.7 billion (current 1997 dollars) between 1995 and 2020. This equates to $3,599 per person and $10,121 per household in the year 2020. Some estimates are even higher.

Air Quality
During the next 25 years emissions of all five of the major monitored pollutants are projected to increase. Increases in particulate matter (PM10) pose the most pressing problems in terms of meeting federal health and safety standards. Automobiles are the single largest source for several pollutants and are a major factor contributing to air pollution. New federal standards will make attainment much more difficult. Consequently, air quality is a major challenge in the Greater Wasatch Area and a possible constraint to future growth.

Water is not a constraint to population growth in the Greater Wasatch Area as long as residents are willing to pay for additional water development and water providers are willing to work together to deliver adequate supplies. Residents are expected to decrease per capita water consumption because of a continuation of current trends in the use of low flow plumbing, xeriscaping(1), and price increases. Water rates even after adjusting for inflation, are projected to increase by 50 percent from 1995 to 2020 to help pay for new development.

Water infrastructure development is projected to cost more than $3.1 billion between 1995 and 2020 (current 1997 dollars). This equates to approximately $1,200 per person and $3,300 per household.

Land Use
Population growth will change land use patterns as new homes and businesses are built. The current urban area occupies an estimated 320 square miles of land and is projected to increase to 590 square miles in 2020 and 1350 square miles in 2050. Agricultural and other land uses will be converted to resident use as the demand for new housing continues to increase. Population densities for the entire ten county area are projected to increase from 72 persons per square mile in 1995 to 119 in 2020.



1. Defined as an integrated approach to landscape water conservation. Xeriscapes are designed through wise planning, proper selection of plant and construction materials, and proper installation and use of irrigation systems. 



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