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Great Salt Lake bill passes unanimously, other water conservation bills advance

Posted at 5:57 PM, Mar 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-02 21:00:14-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill pumping $40 million toward getting more water into the shrinking Great Salt Lake has unanimously passed the legislature.

The Utah State Senate on Wednesday gave final approval to support House Bill 410 and sent it to Governor Spencer Cox's desk. He is expected to sign it.

The bill allows for a private-public partnership to help lease water rights. It had the support of environmental groups.

The Great Salt Lake has dropped 11-feet since it first started being measured back in the 1800s as a result of water diversion, drought and climate change.

"Over 1,600 square miles of lake bed have been exposed to the elements, generating toxic dust, reducing snowpack and threatening the economy and quality of life and Utahns across the state," said Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City. "So much like our pioneer ancestors did before us, we too have an opportunity to establish a system which will not only help us address the problems we face today, but will benefit generations of Utahns for decades to come."

It's not the only water conservation bill lawmakers are advancing. Lawmakers are approving bills to include the impact on the Great Salt Lake in future water plans. There are also bills to offer incentives to get Utahns to ditch non-essential turf, and incentives to get agriculture producers (a big water user) to switch to more water-saving technologies.

The Senate on Wednesday advanced a big bill requiring cities across the state to implement secondary water metering by 2030. Some smaller cities and counties were exempted, but were required to impose some stringent water conservation measures.

Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, said cities that did implement secondary water-metering saw immediate savings as people saw how much they were using on outdoor watering and cut back without being required to.

"The statistics I saw in my city? We saw about 30 to 35% water savings," Sen. McKell said.

Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, objected to forcing it to happen statewide.

"For the state to impose on water rights, the cities or individuals, is completely wrong," he said.

The bills are efforts the state is taking in the face of growth and demands for water.