Lawmakers take aim at water law reforms

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  • UtahEngineer Sandy, UT
    Jan. 29, 2018 10:28 a.m.

    Charging market prices for water is a major issue, and a good one.

    The legislature is also on course to charge car users more to build major freeway and roadway improvements and maintenance.

    However, when it comes to "mass transit", the shoe is on the other giants foot. Here, it seems to legislators are O.K. giving much greater amounts of money to UTA to give away millions of rides to colleges and everybody associated with them at Provo colleges for the next 10 years, despite existing Utah State law that UTA and its general manager MUST charge, to the greatest extent possible, the FULL cost of providing those rides.

    UTA has flaunted that law for over a decade, for anybody who bothers to check and according to the legislature's 2012 audit of UTA by the legislature's Auditor General. The data is most embarrassing for UTA's FrontRunner train, which manages to collect only 5% of all the costs of trips provided. That means that one way or another, the public pays the difference, which is 95% subsidy for all the riders on those trains.

    So, maybe it is time for water economics to be the model upon which our leaders will finally exercise their due diligence w.r.t UTA.

  • water rocket Magna, UT
    Jan. 29, 2018 9:33 a.m.

    Utah water laws haven't changed since pioneer times, but circumstances sure have. As for the "Use it or loose it" comment earlier posted, the fact is that there is no such law, but there sure needs to be. Sadly, in the past (and probably still is) it has been the water rights attorney representing Salt Lake City that has controlled water rights legislation in the legislature. Furthermore, Salt Lake City is pretty much built out, yet has enormous water rights reserves. Just look at all the water in the Jordan River that goes to waste every year, because Salt Lake City controls that water, but doesn't use it.

    I say it is high time ALL water rights law be examined and updated to fit more modern times and needs.

  • NEAD SLC, UT
    Jan. 29, 2018 9:01 a.m.

    @What in Tucket,

    It's been shown that providing farmers with incentives to increase irrigation efficiency does not result in water savings. Look up the article "Water conservation in irrigation can increase water use," in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 11/2008, by Frank Ward.

    @Red Smith,
    If "bullying small canyon land owners" prevents overdevelopment of the Cottonwoods, then I'm all for it. The only people I can imagine benefiting from Noel's bill are developers who purchased land in Big and Little Cottonwood knowing that they couldn't develop it because of the necessary watershed-protecting land use restrictions. This law shouldn't change just so they can line their pockets.

  • cityboy Farmington, UT
    Jan. 29, 2018 8:41 a.m.

    @ What in Tucket,
    The fallacy about ag conservation is that it results in "additional" water to remain in stream to protect the ecosystem or to be available for culinary uses. Utah's WR laws provides for the next senior WR holder to claim that "conserved" water. The WR cannot be enlarged, i.e., used to water additional acreage, but the "conserved" water could be used by the WRs holder to water later into the summer to gain a 4th cutting to the effect that the "conserved" water through improved ag practices is not actually conserved.

    If legislators were really interested in making changes to state water law that would result in real improvement, here are some suggestions:
    1. Require WRs holder to actually prove up on their rights. Many ag producers who originally had rights to serve many head of cattle, sheep or horses no longer have those number of livestock. The rights for the same should be redistributed.
    2. First in time, first in right is a throw-back to the Utah of 150 years ago and doesn't well serve the world we currently live in. Revise it.
    3. Allow non-profits the ability to independently purchase and hold water rights.
    4. Abandon the use-it-or-lose-it philosophy

  • Hemlock Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 29, 2018 8:39 a.m.

    Extraterritorial jurisdiction for Salt Lake to ensure water quality is the lesser of many possible evils. Water shed is a precious entity that requires protection.

  • What in Tucket Provo, UT
    Jan. 29, 2018 7:02 a.m.

    Surface drip irrigation uses half the water of sprinkling. Encouraging farmers with low cost loans or some other kind of help could release a lot of water for culinary use. Irrigation uses 80% of the water. Maybe Utah should construct a desalination plant on the California or Oregon coast and sell the water to California so they would not take Utah water?

  • cityboy Farmington, UT
    Jan. 29, 2018 6:57 a.m.

    I cannot opine as to any heavy handidness of SLC re: the protection of their watersheds. But from simply a results perspective, the city has done a great job in protecting undeveloped watersheds. Its efforts have not been as good in developed areas like Emigration Canyon where known water quality problems exist but where the city has not used its authority to take the bull by the horns and lead impromements that need to be made. The county has equally been ineffective. In the city's defense, once pollution-driving development occurs, it's tremendously difficult to reverse the effects. It's better to be in pollution prevention mode than pollution mitigation mode.

    Rep. Noel contends that the city doesn't need such broad ranging authority over its watersheds as the counties and the state DEQ have such authority. Neither is as effective as SLC. DEQ works with and encourages local watershed groups to "do the right thing" but cannot direct their activities. DEQ's main authority is enforcement once the pollution problem has already manifested itself. The counties are a little bit less hamstrung, but many (not all) lack fire in the belly to take proactive protection measures.

  • scrappy do DRAPER, UT
    Jan. 29, 2018 6:05 a.m.

    Be wary of anything that is being driven by Noel

  • emb Pleasant Grove, UT
    Jan. 29, 2018 4:43 a.m.

    Thanks for your coverage of this very important issue. emb

  • Red Smith American Fork, UT
    Jan. 28, 2018 5:48 p.m.

    Under Utah Code 10-8-15, 242 cities have regular watershed police powers over 1,100 acres on a water source.

    4 cities (SLC, Sandy, West Valley, and Provo) have super sized watershed police powers over 100,000 acres or more - ridge to ridge.

    The abuses has been just one city - Salt Lake City Public Utilities bullying small canyon land owners off their land "to protect the watershed."

    There is no science or peer review process that justifies a First Class City have supersized watershed police powers.

    There is no need for SLC to have watershed police powers over Utah County, Wasatch County, parts of Summit County and Duchesne County.

    SLC is a great city with a very bad water dept "saving the canyons" to deflect from double water rates, triple staffing, and crumbling infrastructure.

    For example, SLC's produces a safe unit of water fro $480 at its Parley's plant compared to Jordan Valley's $48 per safe unit of water.

    There is no excuse for SLC water dept's sloppy management and over charging SLC residents $20 million a year, the $25 million "surplus" water hoarding tax business, and control of the Town of Alta via a "surplus" water contract.

    Time to fix the bad apple.

  • stevo123 Driggs, ID
    Jan. 28, 2018 5:39 p.m.

    Mike Noels bill is an attack on Wasatch front water users. As the population increases the need for clean water will only more serious.