Data Book: Introduction

Databook Purpose and Overview
    In the last six years Utah has experienced an unprecedented economic boom. Economic growth has attracted large numbers of residents from other states to Utah. High in-migration, combined with a consistently growing resident population, has applied pressure on Utah's existing transportation, water, sewer, educational, and recreational facilities. The need to preserve Utah's quality of life and plan for infrastructure improvements has given rise to Quality Growth Efficiency Tools (QGET), a cooperative civic/private regional growth management initiative. This report details the progress of the QGET technical committee in providing growth-related information to planners, elected officials and the general public. It will show what information is currently available to analyze the impacts of urban growth through historical trends and future projections.
     The QGET technical committee plans to use trends and projections to analyze alternative growth scenarios.  These alternative growth scenarios provide information on how planning decisions will affect future urban growth. Specifically, alternative growth scenarios can assist in answering the following questions: What kinds of urban growth accommodate a limited supply of water? What kinds of urban growth affect air quality so that the Wasatch Front does not exceed national air quality standards?  What kinds of urban growth will reduce traffic congestion? What kinds of urban growth will reduce infrastructure costs, and subsequent costs to taxpayers? What kinds of growth will preserve adequate open spaces?
    The analysis of trends, projections and alternative growth scenarios addresses eight major categories- demographics, economics, transportation, air quality, land use, energy, water use, and infrastructure costs. The data and analysis focuses on the Greater Wasatch Area, the largest and fastest growing urban area in Utah. This area is unique from the rest the state due to its relatively high living densities and concentrated economic base. It does not neatly follow jurisdictional boundaries, encompassing the area bordered by Brigham City on the north, Nephi on the south, Tooele on the west, and Heber City on the east. For the purpose of understanding this report, definitions of the study area are listed below.  

Greater Wasatch Area Subregions

Metro Counties—  all of Utah, Salt Lake, Davis and Weber Counties.  These are the four most urbanized, densely populated counties in the state.  They border the western side of the Wasatch Mountains.  Approximately 75 percent of the state's population lives within this Metro area.
The Wasatch Back—   the most  populous sections of Morgan, Summit and Wasatch Counties that border the eastern side of the Wasatch Mountains.  The Wasatch Back is currently much more rural in character than the Wasatch Front.  However, Summit County has been the second fastest growing county in Utah over the last 15 years, with Morgan and Wasatch Counties also experiencing rapid growth.
Tooele/Grantsville—  located to the west of the Salt Lake Valley. This area has received spill over growth from the populous Wasatch Front.  Many of the area's 20,000 residents work and use services in the Salt Lake Valley.

Northern Juab County—  currently reaping some of the rapid growth of its northern neighbor, Utah County.  In the last five years, Juab has grown by an annual average rate of 4.0 percent, substantially higher than the state average.  The majority of this growth has taken place in northern Juab, around the city of Nephi.  Though still a relatively small county with 7,150 residents, it is likely that its growth will coincide with the rapid growth in Utah County.

Southern Box Elder County— concentrated in the area of Brigham City, with a population of about 16,000.
Map of the Greater Wasatch Area

Because most of the current data is only available on a state and county level, the tables and figures in this report are organized by the geographic boundaries listed below.

QGET Databook Geographic Boundaries

10-county Greater Wasatch Area— all of Weber, Davis, Salt Lake, Utah, Wasatch, Summit, Morgan, Tooele, Box Elder and Juab Counties. This encompasses the entire study area.

Metro Counties— all of Davis, Salt Lake, Utah and Weber Counties. These boundaries match the federally designated metropolitan areas of Salt Lake-Ogden and Provo-Orem.

Non-metro Counties— all counties of the Greater Wasatch Area, excluding the Metro. The counties include all of Box Elder, Morgan, Tooele, Summit, Wasatch and Juab.

State of Utah— encompasses the entire state.
  Map of the Greater Wasatch Area and Metro Counties

Purpose  of the QGET Databook
1. Illustrate major urban growth trends and projections for Utah and the Greater Wasatch Area.
2. Provide information on how to access additional growth-related data.
3. Provide information about the Baseline Scenario.

1.  Illustrate major growth trends and projections for Utah and the Greater Wasatch Area.
    The growth-related data in this report illustrates information that QGET shares with Utah agencies and citizens.  Some of this information is available on the State Internet server (  As the web site develops, viewers will be able to retrieve growth-related information through numeric, visual and interactive displays.  These displays are described below:

Numeric Displays-  Database tables which cite statistics on a yearly basis.  The statistics are available on county, metro, non-metro and state levels.  Some tables show past (historical) statistics and some show future (projected) statistics, depending on the trend that is emphasized in the report.

Visual Displays- These include graphs, charts and maps.  Graphs illustrate relationships between past, present, and future statistical trends.  Charts compare statistics among political jurisdictions such as states, counties and cities.  Maps illustrate information spatially and geographically.

Interactive Models- Models use statistical and geographical information to make demographic, economic, and transportation projections. These models will allow planners to input numbers and receive alternative scenario outcomes.  This will assist planners in preparing multiple growth scenarios.  The report only describes the characteristics of these models and provides examples of them.  The QGET Technical Committee may make some interactive models available on the QGET web server.

2.  Provide information on how to access additional growth-related data.
     The growth-related data is organized into eight subject areas- demographics, economics, transportation, air quality, land use, energy, water, and infrastructure costs.  Each subject area contains an "Additional Data and Sources Table."  This table provides information on other types of data that are not included in this report.  It also lists the data source (eg. Utah Dept. of Transportation, State Dept. of Employment Security).

3.  Provide Information about the Baseline Scenario
     The planning documents and planning models chapters of this report details the various sources that contributed to the QGET Baseline Scenario. The Baseline Scenario (available in hard copy and on the QGET web server) provides growth projections for the next 25 years, considering current trends and policies continue into the future. An understanding of projection models will assist with the preparation of accurate, detailed alternative growth scenarios. Alternative growth scenarios will be compared to the Baseline Scenario, which serves as a benchmark.

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QGET Background

    QGET was created by an appropriation from the legislature to improve the technical/analytical tools used to plan for Utah's future.  A Technical Committee was formed to oversee the implementation and development of these tools.  It was created in a spirit of collaboration and is comprised of representatives from state government agencies, regional planning entities, counties, cities, utilities, and Envision Utah, a non-profit organization interested in Utah's future.

     The Quality Growth Efficiency Tools (QGET) Technical Committee seeks to improve the quality of information available to plan for Utah's future.  The focus of the committee is to enhance the technical modeling tools, data, and processes such that decision makers have growth-related information related to air quality, transportation, water, and land use that is comprehensive, reliable, accessible, and consistent.

General Goals
     The objectives of the QGET technical committee are twofold: 1) Improve the technical and analytical models used to forecast growth, and 2) Improve the processes and procedures that accompany the management of the data and models.  Related to this strategy are the following project goals that have been identified by the committee and adopted in a general framework, subject to further refinement:

    • Facilitate the sharing of growth related information to all interested persons and entities;

    • Strengthen the collaboration and communication among planning entities;

    • Enhance the integration of current planning models, processes, and resources;

    • Improve knowledge about current and future land use;

    • Develop the capability to comprehensively analyze alternative growth scenarios;

    • Enhance and encourage public discussion about planning for the future by providing improved analytical capacity and presentation of information.

    The Technical Committee has decided to focus the initial efforts on the Greater Wasatch Area.  This area includes the four metropolitan counties of Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, and Utah, and portions of Morgan, Wasatch, Summit, Juab, Tooele and Box Elder.  QGET will expand efforts into non-metropolitan counties after significant progress is made in the metropolitan and adjacent areas.

Envision Utah
     While QGET focuses on providing technical tools for analyzing urban growth issues, Envision Utah cooperates with citizens, business leaders and policy-makers to develop growth strategies. The partnership is sponsored by the Coalition for Utah's Future, a private non-profit organization dedicated to finding common ground for the common good. It consists of almost 100 key community leaders who are committed to creating a vision for Utah's future. Envision Utah's mission is to create a publicly supported growth strategy that will preserve Utah's high quality of life and economic vitality for the next 50 years. Governor Michael O. Leavitt and businessman Larry Miller have agreed to serve as Honorary Co-chairs.  Robert Grow, President and CEO of Geneva Steel and Board of Trustees Chair of the Coalition, heads the Partnership.
     Envision Utah will facilitate consensus for a growth strategy through the development of a clear vision for the future. This requires inter-local, inter-governmental, and public/private cooperation. The work of the partnership includes:

    • A baseline model to project Utah's future if current growth trends and policies continue.

    • A broad survey of area residents to determine community characteristics that they want to preserve or change.

    • Several alternative models showing possible growth patterns resulting from different growth strategies.

    • Close analysis of the alternative models to determine and demonstrate the relative costs and impacts of each strategy on population, infrastructure costs, air quality, water, open space and recreation preservation, traffic congestion, fair housing and business patterns.

    • A wide-spread public education and mass-media campaign to encourage the residents of the region to express their preferences on alternatives and increase their understanding of options and challenges inherent to growth.

    • The creation of a broadly supported growth strategy—  a clear vision of our future.

     Through these activities, Envision Utah seeks more cooperative and visible planning efforts, a more informed public on growth planning issues, and a publicly supported growth strategy. Envision Utah anticipates that a multi-year implementation plan would promote the publicly supported growth strategy. Envision Utah will encourage all public and private entities to make planning decisions consistent with the publicly supported growth strategy.

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Urban Growth in Utah

    Over the past five years, Utah has experienced one of the nation's highest growth rates in population and economic activity. Utah's population growth rate ranked 3rd in the nation in 1996, a year in which the state's population surpassed 2 million. Of these 2 million residents, approximately 1.5 million live in the Wasatch Front Metropolitan Counties, a 4-county region stretching about 90 miles from north to south.  Concentrated growth along the Wasatch Front has made Utah one of the most urban states in the nation (ranked 6th). In addition to growth along the western Wasatch Front, communities  along the eastern part of the Wasatch Mountains (parts of Morgan, Summit and Wasatch counties) have experienced unprecedented growth in the last five years. In this report, the new growth area east of the Wasatch Mountains will be referred to as the "Wasatch Back."  The Wasatch Front and Back expect to receive the large majority of Utah's projected 1.3 million population increase by the year 2020. The growth of the Greater Wasatch Area, which includes the Wasatch Front and surrounding counties, has caused increasing traffic congestion, changing land use patterns, rising land values, and challenges to environmental quality.
Geographic Context
     Natural features limit urban growth along the Wasatch Front to a narrow band of land stretching about 100 miles South to North,  from Nephi to North Ogden.  East to West, the Wasatch Front is about 30 miles at its widest extent from the Wasatch Mountains to Tooele. The steep slopes of the Wasatch Range limit growth on the eastern side of the Wasatch Front, while the Great Salt Lake, the Utah Lake and wetlands limit growth on the western side.
 In 1847, the isolated Salt Lake Valley provided the Mormon pioneers a geography in which they could govern themselves without persecution from other settlements. Earlier settlers had bypassed Utah in favor of gold and fertile land on the Pacific Coast. The Salt Lake Valley soon became the "Crossroads of the West," a prominent stopover point for wagon trains traveling to California and Oregon. Later, the transcontinental railroad connected East and West rails at Promitory Point, Utah. Salt Lake and Ogden would become important links in the railroad system. After World War II, the Wasatch Front became a crossroads for the interstate highway system, with I-15 and I-80 crossing in Salt Lake City.
     The Wasatch Front's role as a crossroads has developed a strong economy based on trade and transportation. In addition, the precious minerals of the Wasatch mountains and canyons attracted prospectors to the area. Water from the canyons' rivers has sustained a continually growing population. In the 1970s, the Wasatch mountains began to attract skiers and significant economic activity in the tourism industry.
     Salt Lake City is the largest urban area in the Intermountain West, which includes Utah, Nevada, Western Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Centrally located, the Wasatch Front is currently the largest urban area between San Francisco and Denver to the east and west. Phoenix is the closest metropolitan area south of the Wasatch Front, and Portland the closet to the northwest. Dependence of the surrounding region on the Wasatch Front for goods, services, employment, and transportation has bolstered its position as the most culturally and economically influential metropolitan area in the Intermountain West.
     In the past twenty years, the Wasatch Front has maintained strong migration ties with the major metropolitan areas south and west of Utah such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, Portland, Seattle and Las Vegas. All of these metropolitan areas have experienced an overall in-migration as much of the national population has migrated from the north and east parts of the United States to the south and west. Utah has received much of the "spill over" from this national trend over the last six years, with an in-migration of 108,000 over the same time period. California, which has the largest population and economy in the country, has supplied most of the in-migrants to Utah (about 20 percent).

Historical Context
     The growth rate of Utah's population has historically exceeded that of the nation. This is due to Utah's levels of high natural increase, the number of births minus the number of deaths. Utah has consistently registered one of the nation's highest birth rates. In addition, the average Utah resident has generally experienced a higher life expectancy than the average U.S. citizen. In contrast to natural increase, Utah's net migration has fluctuated throughout the years, with periods of large out-migration. For example, five of the six years from 1963 to 1968 were marked by negative net migration. From 1984 to 1990, Utah experienced another period of large out-migration, highlighted by a negative net migration of 14,526 people in 1988. Even during these periods of out-migration, Utah's high birth and life expectancy rates have ensured a constantly increasing population. Natural increase has accounted for 84 percent of Utah's population growth since 1940. In recent years, high levels of in-migration have combined with natural increase factors to produce trends of rapid population growth. This has resulted in a population increase of about 274,000 residents in the past six years. The only other time period to experience similarly high growth rates took place from 1977 to 1982.
     The area surrounding the Wasatch Mountains in northern Utah has always accommodated the majority of Utah's population. Over the past twenty years, the population of the Greater Wasatch Area has received most of the state's new growth as well, largely due to its established economic infrastructure and opportunities for employment in the burgeoning service, trade and construction sectors. The state has become less dependent on employment in mining and agriculture over the same time period.  As a result, most rural areas have experienced much slower economic and population growth than metropolitan areas over the past twenty years. This is consistent with national trends. Two rural counties that are an exception to this trend are Washington and Grand Counties, areas with an expanding tourism industry and retirement community. Washington and Grand Counties produced the two highest population growth rates in the state from 1995 to 1996.
     Currently, Utah ranks as the sixth most urban state in the nation. The U.S. Bureau of the Census classifies 87 percent of Utah's population as urban. A person is considered urban if they live in an urbanized area (Utah has four: Logan, Ogden, Salt Lake City and Provo-Orem) or in a city over 2,500 persons.

Future Outlook
     Utah population and economic growth rates are projected to continue to out-pace those of the nation from 1997 through 2020. The state's population, which was 2.0 million in 1996, is projected to reach 3.3 million by the year 2020, a 65 percent increase. A rapid rate of natural increase and an increasingly diversified economy will sustain this population growth.
     The majority of the 1.3 million new Utahns will reside on the Wasatch Front. The Wasatch Back expects to continue growing at rapid rates as well.  Summit County is projected to increase in population at an average rate of 4.2 percent from 1997 to 2000.
     Several major decisions will have an impact on the entire Greater Wasatch Area within the next 10 years.  Construction of the Legacy Highway along the western corridor of the Wasatch Front is expected to alter land use and traffic patterns.  Construction of new roads is proposed to connect cities along the Wasatch Back. Completion of light rail and further investments in public transportation will also impact future land use and traffic patterns. In the future, it will become increasingly difficult for the area to maintain national air quality standards as more automobiles use the roads. Water demand will require construction of new water source facilities, major conservation efforts, or a combination of the two. The Greater Wasatch Area faces challenges to provide affordable housing for its residents as property values have risen dramatically over the past five years. All of these decisions will affect the form of future urban growth. Public discussion on growth issues may be enhanced by addressing alternative growth strategies, which could alter current trends.



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