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Utah’s latest commitments to water conservation

Water conservancy districts explain the impact of Utah’s legislative action toward water conservancy.

During the 2022 legislative session, Utah lawmakers have passed 18 bills directly addressing water conservation, according to the water conservancy group Preserve60 in its latest review of the state’s conservancy actions.

Utah’s large water conservancy districts have been offering cash for grass programs, sprinkler replacements, toilet rebates, and installing secondary meters, among a variety of other conservation programs, for over 20 years. The total investment throughout those decades of effort will now be combined with a record amount of funding made available during the 2022 legislative session, as lawmakers passed 18 bills directly addressing water conservation.

“This unprecedented investment in water conservation by our state leaders is music to our ears,” said Zach Renstrom, General Manager of Washington County Water Conservancy District. “The water conservancy districts have made great strides in reducing water use throughout the state, but the recent legislation will elevate our efforts.”

Secondary water metering was a main focus area, with $251 million allocated across the state. Weber Basin Water Conservancy District (WBWCD) has been pushing to install secondary meters since 2000 and has tracked a 20 percent-30 percent reduction of outdoor use when meters are installed.

“We prioritized this effort beginning in 2010. To date, juggling other demands, we’ve been able to invest approximately $15 million,” said Scott Paxman, General Manager of WBWCD. “We have been fighting the good fight but this new investment will be a game changer. We know metering helps.”

Utah’s Prepare60 water conservancy districts (comprised of Central Utah, Weber Basin, Jordan Valley, and Washington County) have published the Statewide Water Infrastructure Plan (SWIP).

SWIP is the most comprehensive, long-term forecast of statewide water needs organized by river basin between now and 2070. The latest data indicates that Utah will need to invest $38 billion to meet growth demands by 2060. This breaks down to $20.6 billion for repair and replacement of aging infrastructure and $17.6 billion for new infrastructure, water supply, and water supplier conservation costs.

“We applaud and welcome the State’s investment specifically in water conservation initiatives in the 2022 legislative session. Conservation is only one piece of the puzzle. The Prepare60 water conservancy districts have long pushed that conservation should be the first priority, followed by repair/replacement of existing infrastructure, and new projects. That makes for a viable and stable water approach,” said Gene Shawcroft, General Manager of Central Utah Water Conservancy District.

The legislature allocated another $5 million for turf replacement, which was a popular program as Utah experienced harsh drought conditions in 2021. Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District began funding landscaping projects in earnest in 2016, and has spent more than $1.3 million on water efficient landscaping incentives over the last five years.

Utah’s water conservancy districts have spent $355+ million on conservation programs. The result is a more than 20 percent reduction in the state’s per capita water use since 2000, despite an almost 58 percent increase in population.

“Water policy planning for the next generation cannot be considered in a silo, either geographically or jurisdictionally,” said Bart Forsyth, General Manager of the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District. “Much of Utah shares the same water resources, so we have to work together from a statewide perspective.”

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