Residents concerned that Provo's water rights are going down the drain are requesting that the mayor and City Council take a closer look at the city's rights.
Provo resident Wayne Spence on Tuesday presented the mayor and council with a petition signed by 700 people asking them to protect the water rights."The city is not protecting its water rights and is letting the water slip away by not using it," Spence said. "We are just some concerned citizens and want to make some requests to the city."
Mayor Joe Jenkins said: "There is not an issue in Provo city that concerns us more and involves more time than the water issue. We probably have some of the best experts on water history right here in the city."
Jenkins commended Spence for his efforts, saying that the city needs to have the help of its citizens. "Sometimes we feel like a voice in the wilderness where no one hears us or wants to help."
Spence said the idea for a petition came after he realized how little he knew about the city's water rights, yet how important the rights were for the city's future growth.
"Maybe the citizens don't know or maybe the state does not want to recognize it," he said. "We just want to know where you stand."
Spence said the state engineer gave 320,000 acre-feet of water to the Jordanelle Dam diversion about six years ago, and "it was not his to give away. Provo didn't do anything."
Provo does have 10,000 acre-feet of storage in the Jordanelle Dam, but Spence said no water is there yet, which compares to having checks with no money in the bank.
Water rights were vested to Provo by the territorial legislature first in 1852 and then in 1871 by President Ulysses S. Grant. Those rights were affirmed through the Morse decree in 1902 and again in 1921.
The Morse decree gives the city preferential rights over the river, including municipal, industrial and irrigation rights.
"As I understand it, we are the only city with vested rights on the water," Spence said. "Others have rights, and we have vested rights. We want to keep those rights protected from infringement."
The petition requests that the mayor and council take steps to protect all of the city's water rights and that such water rights be protected from infringement by anyone who would take away, give away, diminish or compromise the water rights.
It requests the mayor and council members jointly acquaint themselves with the facts pertaining to Provo's vested water and other water rights.
But Councilman Steve Clark said: "I believe we are up to speed on the issue. That does not diminish the fact that they will try to take the water away from us."
The petition further requests that the city lease any surplus water to the Central Utah Water Conservancy District at a price acceptable to the council, mayor and district instead of letting it go free.