Utah lawmakers discuss possibility of ‘conservation pricing’ for water

Posted at 7:50 PM, Jun 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-17 21:50:02-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah is America's number one water waster, and two legislative committees met Wednesday to discuss “conservation pricing” for water and how that might impact resident’s use and the state’s supply.

The Utah Rivers Council said that in most Utah cities, property taxes pay for big municipal water projects—which makes the cost for water use for consumers inexpensive.

That set up has led some to wonder if pricing based on use would impact water conservation, and The Utah Rivers Council and others are presenting the idea of "conservation pricing" to lawmakers.

They say it's essential that the public understand how much water costs, and believe more of the cost should be passed directly on to users so that everyone pays for exactly what they're using, including organizations that don't pay property taxes--like schools and churches.

Proponents of “conservation pricing” say raising prices would cause a change in attitude toward water conservation

Zach Frankel of the Utah Rivers Council said: “It doesn’t have to be punitive, and it doesn’t at all have to be draconian, but if you have a user that doesn’t pay property taxes, say a school, that’s paying the same amount for water as a low-income resident making $20,000 a year: Something’s wrong with the water rate.”

In the two legislative committee meetings taking place Wednesday, lawmakers had a lot of questions for water managers from around the state. The issue gets very complicated very quickly. Each water district has different sources of revenue and different sources of water, and different districts are already charging different prices to consumers, so there is no one formula for how much a single gallon of water should cost.

It doesn’t appear lawmakers are taking any action on the proposal any time soon, as Wednesday’s meetings were just the beginning of what will likely be a lengthy discussion on the topic. Several lawmakers seemed open to the concept of “conservation pricing”, but there are a number of factors and complications to consider.