#Water proposals trickle through #Utah Statehouse in last days — The Associated Press

Utah Rivers map via Geology.com

Click the link to read the article on the Associated Press website (Sam Metz and Lindsay Whitehurst). Here’s an excerpt:

Utah — which is both one of the nation’s driest states and thirstiest consumers of water on a per capita basis — is among a larger group of states confronting the realities of prolonged drought and climate change, while also trying to prepare for population growth. The state relies heavily on the over-tapped Colorado River and its past plans to create infrastructure to siphon more river water have provoked a united outcry from other states in the region — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming. This year’s water focus is a detour from previous years for a growing state that has historically been one of the region’s most reluctant to curtail water use. Here are a few proposals on the table as lawmakers barrel toward the end of the , legislative session:

SECONDARY METERING

In Utah, about 200,000 homes and businesses have access to essentially unlimited outdoor water in exchange for a flat fee. It’s considered some of the cheapest water in the country. This year, lawmakers approved a plan to spend about $250 million in federal funds to rein in what’s called “secondary metering” and install meters on those connections so the amount of water they used can be measured for the first time…The proposal would require all secondary water connections to have water meters by 2030, though some small rural areas would be exempted.

Satellite photo of the Great Salt Lake from August 2018 after years of drought, reaching near-record lows. The difference in colors between the northern and southern portions of the lake is the result of a railroad causeway. The image was acquired by the MSI sensor on the Sentinel-2B satellite. By Copernicus Sentinel-2, ESA – https://scihub.copernicus.eu/dhus/#/home, CC BY-SA 3.0 igo, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77990895

GREAT SALT LAKE

Republican House Speaker Brad Wilson’s plan to set aside $40 million for a trust to save the Great Salt Lake got final approval this week and awaits signature from Gov. Spencer Cox. The proposal would focus on ways to get more water into the shrinking lake, which hit its lowest level in recorded history last year. It would also seek to improve the water quality and restore the wetlands around the lake. The initial investment of state money is considered a first step. It’s expected to be funded with a combination of additional public and private funds in the future, Wilson has said. He cited copper company Rio Tinto’s 2021 decision to donate water rights to the lake as an example of what the trust could facilitate…

The Southern Nevada Water Authority offers rebates of $3 for every square foot of grass replaced with water-smart landscaping. (Source: Southern Nevada Water Authority)

‘FLIP YOUR STRIP’

Utah lawmakers are poised to pass new laws to encourage people and businesses to replace thirsty grass with drought-tolerant landscaping that uses less water. A proposal from Ogden Republican Rep. Ryan Wilcox would prohibit cities, counties and homeowners’ associations from requiring residents to plant traditional grass yards, rather than “water-wise landscaping” such as mulch, rocks and plants that can be sustained with drip irrigation, not sprinklers. Homeowners’ associations, including in Sandy and Salt Lake City, require residents to maintain grass yards. Cities including Orem and Saratoga Springs have similar municipal ordinances. Wilcox’s bill passed the House in February and awaits a vote in the Senate. Republican Rep. Robert Spendlove wants the government to set an example in conservation. A bill he’s sponsoring would require agencies to conserve water through limiting how much grass they can plant around state-owned buildings and requiring they scale down their water consumption gradually in the next four years. It cleared the Senate Wednesday.

Prior appropriation example via Oregon.gov

‘USE IT OR LOSE IT’

Lawmakers are also aiming to reform a water law doctrine known as “use it or lose it” that jeopardizes property owners’ water rights for water they don’t consume, in effect, discouraging conservation. Historically in Utah, unused water that flows past cities and farms and into the Great Salt Lake has been considered “wasted” since the body is too salty for fish or most other aquatic creatures to survive. A plan from Republican Rep. Joel Ferry would allow farmers to let water flow downstream to the Great Salt Lake and other water bodies without the risk of losing their water rights — and get paid for it. Farmers would decide whether to sell their water, likely based on their harvests and balance sheets for the year. It awaits the governor’s signature.

Lake Powell Pipeline map via the Washington County Water Conservancy District, October 25, 2020.

DAMS AND PIPELINES

In their roughly $25 billion proposed budget, lawmakers did not earmark funds for two contested water projects in northern and southern Utah. Senate President Stuart Adams and Sen. Jerry Stevenson said Wednesday that the budget did not include provisions funding dams along northern Utah’s Bear River. The dams would allow more water to flow to the growing population of the Wasatch Front, but potentially divert water from the largest tributary that feeds the Great Salt Lake. The budget also does not include funding for the Central Iron County Water Conservancy District, which wants to construct a pipeline to transport additional groundwater to Cedar City and the growing surrounding areas.

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