City officials expect it. White City Water Improvement District trustees hope it won't happen but wouldn't be particularly surprised if it does.

Now it's up to the Sandy residents living within the district who use White City water.The question: Will those residents submit a petition to withdraw from the district and hook onto Sandy's system instead?

House Bill 194, which allows residents of a municipality to withdraw from a county service district if they choose, officially became state law Monday.

While that law ostensibly is intended for statewide application, there's a high probability its first test will come in the long-running water feud between Sandy and the White City district.

Both the city and the water district are waiting to see if and when a petition drive is mounted.

"We expect some movement in that direction now that the law is enacted and in place," said Sandy spokesman Rick Davis. "I'm sure there will be groups arguing for and against such a move.

"For the city, this issue really revolves around freedom of choice," he said. "We just wanted to make it clear to citizens they could leave the district if they wanted to."

The new law provides that municipal residents living within a county service district can pull out if their cities offer equivalent or better service, and if a majority of the city users vote for withdrawal.

But Paul Ashton, the water district's attorney, said he believes some modifications to HB194 make withdrawal of city users less attractive to Sandy.

For one thing, he said, "the city, before it can call for an election, must do a feasibility study" to determine if it is to Sandy's advantage to take over the system.

Included in that information would be what it would cost the city to provide service inside the area traditionally using White City water and whether the city would benefit from taking it over.

Ashton also noted the law says White City must be held harmless as the result of withdrawal.

He said Sandy will have to pay sufficient amounts to ensure the remaining White City users will not face tax or rate increases caused by a withdrawal.

In addition, the law provides all surplus assets including water remain with the district.

"Everything has been very quiet so far," said Paulina Flint, chairwoman of the White City Water District Board of Trustees. "But we've heard some rumors.

"It's going to be interesting," she said. "The ball is in their court, but I don't see any will of their residents to support a petition drive."

Judy Bell, Sandy's public works director, has indicated she's convinced city residents will pull out of the district because it will mean lower water rates.

One prime reason for that is Sandy residents in the White City district are being taxed as a result of the city's annexation into the Metropolitan Water District nearly a decade ago, without receiving the services.

State Rep. Brian R. Allen, R-Cottonwood Heights, who sponsored HB194, said he would deal with that tax inequity at the next legislative session if Sandy residents choose not to opt out.

But Allen is up for re-election, Flint noted, and there is no guarantee he will be around next year.

Either way, Flint said she doesn't want to see neighbor pitted against neighbor in another divisive battle over water service like the one that followed the formation of the district in 1993.

In that case, the Utah Supreme Court last month ruled that a 1994 petition by Sandy residents who wanted to withdraw from the White City District could not be revised. A number of residents who signed the 1994 petition had asked to have their names removed.

But the ruling was double-edged: Justices also determined the petitions had to have the signatures of all co-owners of a property in order to be valid.

Because the petition lacked all co-owner signatures, the petitioners did not have the majority required for withdrawal and the decision prevented co-owner names from being added.