A Win For Transparency

Committee Deliberating
Committee Deliberating

The State Records Committee ruled unanimously in the URC’s favor over our request to acquire water use calculations made by the Utah Division of Water Resources which are used to show Utah is running out of water.  For four months the Division not only refused to show us how much water Utahns are using, but their actions and arguments raise questions about whether they are committed to being transparent. The agency’s water calculations – and their accuracy – stands at the center of their lobbying claims that Utah needs to spend $5 billion on both Bear River Development and the Lake Powell Pipeline.  Instead of providing us with these figures, the agency claimed we were asking for a draft report they did not want seen by the public.  But we never asked to see any reports, in draft form or otherwise.

Worse yet, the Division implied they didn’t possess any such records, except those maintained by an entirely separate agency on another website.  In other words, the Division of Water Resources intentionally hid the existence of their database of water figures from us, by saying they satisfied our request through the work of another agency.

But during questioning from one of the members of the State Records Committee in the public hearing, Division staff admitted they had a separate database of water use numbers they calculated and maintain.  This kind of obfuscation is greatly disappointing for an agency criticized in the 2015 Legislative Audit for bumbling basic water calculations.  That Audit also found the Division was ignoring inexpensive sources of water and didn’t know how much water Utahns were using.

We believe Division staff have intentionally inflated future water needs to justify costly and destructive water projects for many years.  These exaggerations hurt our rivers and we expect the agency to utilize sound science and good math for the benefit of Utah’s precious rivers, the wildlife that depend upon them and the people that love them.

Check out these great articles about the hearing from the Salt Lake Tribune here and the Deseret News here. Be sure to share these stories with your friends.