Jay Evensen: It's been a long hot summer — did you get enough to drink?

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  • 1Reader Alpine, UT
    Sept. 12, 2018 11:06 p.m.

    Good article--but let's not make the rate levels so progressive that to keep your lawn lush, you'll spend $500 a month, like in California.
    (Also in California, they raised rates when water was scarce--and when people then cut back (so they received less water sales revenue), they raised rates again to cover their expenses. No matter what, they had this fun cycle where they had to raise rates every year.)

    I don't want to hear about conservation until farmers are responsible and careful too; it's almost a one-way deal today.
    And what if we stopped making meat so cheap?

  • Invisible Hand Provo, UT
    Sept. 12, 2018 4:27 p.m.

    Imposing market discipline will fix most of our water problems, but we can't do it unless we have transparency on who owns the water and what they are doing with it. It seems sensible that the state should own all the water except for Colorado River water that Utah is obligated to deliver to downstream states. I'm sensitive to the fact that currently different entities own water rights and would be financially ruined without them, so why not empower the state to buy their water rights at a market price, then sell them back water at a market rate that could vary from year to year depending on supply?

    This might force some farming operations to close because without subsidized water rights they don't have a viable business model. That's a good thing, as the water would find its best use through the wisdom of free market allocation. We need to set aside enough water for healthy lakes and streams, then sell the rest to the highest bidder and we will see what the market determines is the best use of it.

  • NEAD SLC, UT
    Sept. 12, 2018 1:51 p.m.

    @tron527,

    Agricultural users cannot cut their water use by 10% without suffering significant financial losses. There are complex hydrological and economic reasons why that are explained in the water economics literature (papers by Whittlesy & Huffaker and Ward & Pelado-Vasquez, are a good place to start).

    So, the only way farmers will cut water consumption is if they're compensated for it. But Utah water law complicates the possibility of selling water for some years and not others. So you would have to convince farmers to move to consume less water (which doesn't immediately follow increased irrigation efficiency, but can, if diversions are appropriately curtailed) in exchange for payment for a permanent transfer of their water rights. That's a difficult proposition that hasn't happened much in Utah yet, because the need isn't there. Once municipal demand reaches that threshold, though, those transfers will occur.

  • BryantHowe Sandy, UT
    Sept. 12, 2018 12:24 p.m.

    For some reason in our state we have decided that we don't want water to be allocated using market price as a signal, as we do with all other commodities. As long as the price of water does not equal its marginal cost, there will be a misallocation of resources. The Central Utah Water Conservancy District goes through ruth in taxation now and then to increase its property tax rate to the statutory maximum of .0004. Because it's a relatively low tax rate and a small dollar amount, no one pays much attention -- the public hearing on the rate increase is sparsely attended with a few speaking in opposition. The rate increase is routinely approved. Maybe the Governor should appoint members to this board who will stop this practice. Other water districts with revenue bond debt have covenants that require them to keep their property tax rates at the statutory maximum so that revenue from water sales is not a risk as a source of payment for the bond. Prohibiting this practice would at least partially reduce the property tax subsidy. Then water districts would need voter approval for General Obligation bonds. Voters could decide how to pay for water.

  • 112358 Alpine, UT
    Sept. 12, 2018 12:23 p.m.

    This article heavily implies that the cold and wet 1982 weather was normal, and that we have diverged from that wet normal due to climate change.

    1982 was not at all normal. In fact, the 1981-1982 water year was the wettest in recorded history. Ever.

    Picking that year for comparison is a poor way to start a problem-solving discussion about water.

  • Impartial7 DRAPER, UT
    Sept. 12, 2018 11:18 a.m.

    @Tron527;
    "Dry states should probably not be livestock states for example."

    We also shouldn't be growing hay and alfalfa to ship to China. Some of the most water intensive crops out there. Utah politicians hate welfare for kids and adults, but they sure don't mind corporate welfare for farmers and ranchers.

  • Brave Sir Robin San Diego, CA
    Sept. 12, 2018 11:11 a.m.

    No, I didn't get enough to drink because 80% of our drinking water went to people attempting to grow lush plants in the middle of the desert. That may have been ok in pioneer days because there were only about 50 people who needed drinking water, but times have changed.

    Move your farms to the midwest where it rains more and there's a giant aquifer.

  • NoNamesAccepted St. George, UT
    Sept. 12, 2018 11:02 a.m.

    A few thoughts:

    1-Agri users own water rights dating back well over 100 years. If urban users want that water, they need to pay fair market value for it. Ironically, urban demand is driving that price up. Cities should have been buying water, and supporting additional water projects before things got critical.

    2-The article's historic vinnetes provide strong evidence that the West has always cycled between wet and dry cycles. It did so long before the industrial revolution. Todays drought is nothing new. Man's ability to permanently live here has always relied on water storage. As population grows, we must increase storage to capture water in wet years for use during dry periods.

    3-The true cost of water starts at the first gallon and does not get more expensive in higher volumes. Consumer cost for water may be be lower than market costs. But the tiered water rates used by most cities now is fundamentally at odds with market principles. If we are to drop socialized water, then drop all socialization of water. Charge full market rates on the 1st gallon every month.

    Don't attack socialized water rates and then demand I subsidize water for lower income residents.

  • scrappy do DRAPER, UT
    Sept. 12, 2018 10:31 a.m.

    The vast majority of water usage in Utah is for agricultural purposes
    Obviously urban folks can cut back on landscaping but will farmers and ranchers ever pay the actual cost of water... the answer is no

  • sgallen Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 12, 2018 10:31 a.m.

    Great article. This speaks to the need for people to live smaller, more manageable lives within their resources.

  • tron527 American Fork, UT
    Sept. 12, 2018 10:20 a.m.

    Just over 80% of total water use for our state is Agriculture. I am not saying that residents and municipalities shouldn't conserve, we all need to do better, but the biggest water savings need to come from food growers. Dry states should probably not be livestock states for example. It takes about 10 times the amount of water to produce a serving of beef as it does to produce vegetables and grains and about 6 times that waters to produce a similar serving of chicken or pork. Farms can use drip irrigation and change the way they till to cut water use significantly. If Agriculture were able to cut water use by 10% it would do more than if residents cut water usage by 50%.