SALT LAKE CITY — As Utah continues to harness management of its water resources, lawmakers are steadily pushing legislation to tweak problems auditors and others highlighted in the last few years.
One of them?
Universal sourcing requirements for drinking water systems that are too high, leading to oversized piping and inflated numbers over how much water a city actually needs to meet residential and public safety requirements.
"This size is way above what average consumption is across the state," said Rep. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton. "Policywise, everyone who has come to the table has agreed those statewide standards are too high."
Sandall's HB303, which passed out of the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee on Friday, attempts to create a minimum standard, but one that is system-specific based on three years of data showing historical use.
"This is not a new standard," he said. "Each individual water provider can ask for additional sizing standards."
The legislation grew out of audits performed by the Office of Legislative Auditor General that reviewed the universal standard and found it led to unrealistic requirements for water providers, requiring peak demand flows that were artificially high.
"This bill is four years in the making," said Marie Owens, director of the Utah Division of Drinking Water. "It is in direct response to legislative audits" critical of the standard.
"Those sizing standards have protected public health, but we could not go back and justify where those standards originated from or how they were picked," she said.
Owens said as her division began to dig into the problematic standard and how to arrive at fix, it was clear there wasn't an easy solution.
"There is no way to determine an applicable sizing statewide," she said. "There needs to be a specific sizing standard for each system across the state."1 comment on this story
The 2014 audit found state regulators had not changed drinking water source sizing requirements in 35 years, despite the advent of conservation practices that have greatly reduced demand.
Auditors found water use as much as 50 percent below the required standard in three large urban areas in the state.
Water systems, under Sandall's measure, are grouped into three categories based on their connections and have varying deadlines to comply with data requirements on consumption.
The bill now goes before the House.