Urban Utahns are decades behind many western communities in conserving water. Although many local Utah water suppliers have done a fantastic job of conserving water, state water leaders are resistant to reducing water use because it undermines their claims Utah is running out of water. The claims are vital to getting billions of dollars in new water projects approved.
Conservation in name only
While other states have worked for decades to reduce water use, Utah has provided only lip service to water conservation—an advertising campaign in print, radio and TV. Although this is a good first step, this ad campaign is the only step Utah has taken for the last 17 years.
While the state pushes large and costly water project spending, local water agencies are left to lead their own conservation efforts with little help from state government. Other western communities have proven that conservation not only saves water it saves money. Some of the commonsense measures Utah could adopt from other states include:
- Eliminating tax subsidies that encourage waste
- Creating water conservation rebate programs
- Imposing watering restriction enforcement efforts
- Amending landscape ordinances
- Implementing meaningful inclining rate structures
- Reducing secondary water waste through basic metering
These policies would make a huge difference and establish a sustainable water future for the Utah.
Setting a low bar
Unfortunately, Utah’s singular goal is to reduce water waste by 1% per year until 2025, with no conservation after that. This falls dramatically short of other Western States, which have reduced their water use while Utah’s water use increased.
In 1998, the URC authored and sought passage for the Water Conservation Plan 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. It was a good first step.
Some 20 years later, it remains the only step many water suppliers have taken.
It is past time for Utah to get serious about water conservation. Even as Utah water project salesmen claim Utah is running out of water, they have done precious little to conserve what we have. The simple truth: Utah doesn’t have a water crisis—we have a crisis of state water leadership.
Learn more about the URC’s water conservation work: