February 7, 2022
03/07/2022 UPDATE: All three of WRA’s priority bills passed Utah’s legislature and are on track to be signed into law by the Governor.
On the heels of a year marked by historic drought, record low Great Salt Lake levels, and the ongoing impacts of climate change, many lawmakers are proposing meaningful policies to reduce how much water Utahns use each year. The following bills are a terrific opportunity to make real progress toward a secure water future for the West.
About 70% of Utah’s municipal water use is outside the home, mostly for thirsty turfgrass. While some turf areas are important and provide a lot of benefit (e.g., parks and playgrounds), many turf areas are hardly used and could be replaced by beautiful drought-tolerant vegetation that requires little to no water at all.
HB 121 would:
- impose water conservation requirements by state agencies at state government facilities,
- provide $5 million in incentives for people that want to voluntarily replace turf with drought-resistant landscaping, and
- require the Legislative Water Development Commission to study additional water conservation opportunities in the state.
Water saved by not irrigating turf can stay in our rivers and lakes and benefit the environment.
WRA is working to tackle outdoor water conservation across the West. If passed, HB 121 would create the first statewide program of its kind in our region. WRA is actively working in other states to develop similar voluntary turf buyback programs.
Utah has some of the highest per-person water use in the U.S., in part, because of the prevalence of unmetered secondary water systems, which supply untreated irrigation water for outdoor water use. Users of these systems pay a flat monthly or annual fee regardless of how much water they use. It’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet that incentivizes wasteful water use. Studies have shown that simply metering those secondary water systems and informing people how much water they are using can reduce water use by a third.
HB 242 would:
- require most water suppliers to meter new and existing pressurized secondary water connections,
- impose penalties for failure to comply with metering requirements, and
- provide $200 million in grants to fund metering of certain pressurized secondary water services.
If all secondary water in Utah was metered, it could save at least 80,000 acre-feet, the equivalent amount of water necessary to fill one of Utah’s largest reservoirs.
WRA has long advocated for increased secondary water metering in Utah, convened community and water utility leaders to discuss options, and strongly supported legislation to require secondary metering in all new connections starting in 2020. This amendment is a great next step in ensuring we’re using our scarce water resources in smart and efficient ways.
Most municipalities in Utah don’t consider water supply and water efficiency in their long-term planning. There is a major opportunity to ensure our communities are resilient in the face of a hotter and drier future and continued population growth.
SB 110 would:
- require water use and preservation to be part of a municipal or county general plan, and
- require the plan to outline steps for reducing water demands in current and future development.
Integrating water into the planning process is essential for growing communities with water supply challenges. Growing smart from the start ensures that water doesn’t become a limiting factor in future growth while reducing the need to divert more water from our rivers and lakes.
WRA and partners were recently awarded a state grant to provide on-the-ground support to help Utah communities begin to integrate water into the planning process. SB 110 helps provide the baseline for this work in the coming years, greatly increasing the impact of WRA’s direct assistance to communities by building on the water preservation components in each community’s general plan.
Stay Up to Date on Utah’s 2022 Water Bills
WRA experts will send updates on these important water bills throughout the 2022 legislative session and let you know about key opportunities to help make this a watershed year for water conservation in Utah.