Protecting Utah’s Precious Rivers & Aquatic Landscapes

The URC has had many successes over the last 24 years and has forged many meaningful and diverse partnerships to protect Utah’s amazing rivers.

Audit of Division of Water Resources – In 2013 the URC called for an audit of Utah’s top water planning agency, the Division of Water Resources, to address decades of misinformation and mismanagement of Utah’s rivers.  Over 2000 people signed our petition amidst a media and public education campaign that lasted six months.  After lobbying the Utah Legislature, our audit request was initiated and over 18 months, the Utah Legislative Auditor General examined past claims and data produced by the Division that Utahns were running out of water.  In 2015 a scalding audit was released, which showed the Division of Water Resources had no idea how much water is being used in Utah, which has some of the worst conservation efforts in the nation and is not including existing local water sources in their projections of future water needs.  The Audit found that not only was there very little data to prove Utah was running out of water, but that our municipal water supply is actually growing because of Utah’s rapid conversion of irrigated farmland.

After the Audit was released, Utah Rivers Council staff worked with legislators to pass several new pieces of legislation to address the problems identified in the audit including getting better water data, incentivizing water conservation through requiring tiered water rate structures and other legislation. 

Free-Market Water – The URC has led the fight for free-market water pricing by eliminating the property tax subsidies that go directly to lower the price of water, thereby encouraging water waste.  For 20 years the URC has advocated for the phasing out of these taxes through education, research and grassroots organizing to make the users of water pay for their use.  As a result of the URC’s work on the issue the Utah legislature has initiated bills and studies on water taxes, culminating in a growing movement to phase out the property taxes for water statewide.

Soo’nkahni “Galena” – In 2009 the URC successfully fought for the protection of a 3,000 year old Native American Village adjacent to the Jordan River, which had been slated for a sprawling complex of industrial towers and offices.  These lands were permanently protected through the dedication of a conservation easement.

Rip Your Strip – In 2005 the URC initiated the Rip Your Strip program to reduce outdoor water use.  Since then almost 5,000 people have pledged to Rip Their Strip and every one of those participants saved on average almost 5,000 gallons of water per year.  What’s more, many people converted more than just their parking strip to low water landscaping, resulting in an average savings of just over 8,000 gallons of water per year.

Uinta & Yellowstone Rivers – The URC worked with others to stop two diversion dams costing $250 million on the Uinta and Yellowstone Rivers.  These rivers are the jewels of the Uinta Mountains, draining jagged alpine peaks of the High Uintas through rugged canyons providing habitat for dozens of wildlife species.

Bear River – In 2002, the URC worked with the Utah Legislature to pass a bill to prevent construction of two dams on the Bear River.  Water salesmen proposed to drown 15 miles of prime farmland, Shoshone National burial grounds and vital riverside wetlands along the Bear River to provide water for Salt Lake Valley lawns.  The URC created a coalition of farmers, ranchers, Shoshone tribe members and conservationists to educate and involve elected officials to stop the dams from being built.

Water Conservation Plan Act – With the highest per-person water use in the U.S. Utah is still clinging to an archaic formula of expensive and destructive dam building instead of simply reducing water waste.  In 1998, the URC authored and passed the Water Conservation Act in the Utah Legislature.    As Utah’s first and only water conservation law, this act requires water suppliers to prepare plans describing how to save water by reducing demand.  In 2004, the URC authored and successfully pushed for passage of amendments that strengthened the WCPA adding more structured planning requirements and accountability measures.

Diamond Fork River – In 1997, the URC won a grassroots campaign to protect the Diamond Fork River from being inundated by a proposed dam.  The URC organized thousands of people to speak out, educate elected officials, attend public hearings and lead their communities to protect this fantastic river.  Through the URC’s leadership, the water district proposing the dam not only called it off, but abandoned the entire $325 million project.