“Slow the Flow of H2O” Evaluating A Decade of Utah Water Conservation Legislation If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water. Loran Eisley Goldberry, S.A., Summers, L.INTRODUCTIONPrior to reservoirs and the extraction of ground water, the availability of fresh water greatly influenced the movemenof human populations within ancient Utah. Located within the geographical boundaries of the Great Basin, Utah‟searly indigenous people lives were intricately connected to fresh water sources. While tribal boundaries were oftendetermined by water-ways the appropriation, or diversion of water resources was not a major concern, as theirculture, and values did not require laws for water use.Water laws and regulations were later instigated by the Anglo-European settlers. After arriving into the valleys thatsloped westward along the Wasatch mountain-range, they diverted water from a creek in the SaltLakeValley for theirfirst crops. Eventually, Utah‟s water resources were appropriated by legislation, and the simple canals morphed intoa complex system of delivery, storage systems and treatment facilities. More recently, economics and growth haveinfluenced the development of additional legislation that includes water conserving ethics and regulations. Thislegislation was initiated primarily to ensure the future availability, and safety of Utah‟s water. Since water conservinglegislation passed in 1998, several house-bills and public outreach programs have been adopted by waterconservancy districts, and municipalities. Their main goal has been, “Slow the Flow of H2O.”THE COLORADO RIVER: A LIQUID ASSET A vital, liquid asset that has changed the landscapes of Utah and other Western states are the waters of theColorado River. Critically important to seven western states, indigenous aboriginal tribes and Mexico, it is considered to be the most regulated river in the world (Anderson, D.L., 2002). Its head-waters originate within the peaks of the RockyMountain range in Colorado and Wyoming. However, before ending itsflow into the Gulf of California, it provides water for municipalities, industry, agriculture and hydroelectric power for cities.
Five of the seven upper and lower Colorado River Basin States are among the fastest growing in the nation. Ranked bygrowth they include: (1) Nevada, (2) Arizona, (3) Colorado, (4) Utah and (5) Idaho. Utah, the second driest state in thecontinental United States lies within the lower and upper Colorado River Basins. In the year 2000, diversions from theupper Colorado River totaled 953,000 acre-feet of water that was diverted at specific tributaries throughout the state. Amajority of Utah‟s diversions from the Colorado occur from the DucheneRiver system in the UintahBasin. This water isthen transported to communities along the Wasatch Front through the federally funded Central Utah Water Project (CUP). Utah has rights to an additional 200,000 af/year of water that is calculated into its future water budget. Within the lower ColoradoRiver Basin, the currently unused water is calculated to serve future populations expected to increase at a rate of 2.96% for the next twenty years. However, growth rates for the part of the state located in the upper basin are projected to be only 1.74% (Anderson, D.L.,2002). In 1998, recognizing that increases in population within both upper and lower basins could equate to water consumption in excess of supply, the state legislature passed House Bill 418. In 2004, an amendment was passed (HB 71) that strengthened and refined certain guidelines of the original legislation. HOUSE BILL 418: CONSIDERING UTAH’S WATER FUTURE Prior to the passing of House Bill 418, several communities were practicing water conservation measures that included: universal metering, watershed protection and had adopted water conservingrates for their culinary water supplies. H.B. 418 was written in response to the Utah Division of Water Resources, Division of Water Rights and a Utahstate government subcommittee(the Governor’s Water Conservation Team) that recognized the importance of implementing statewide best management practices that would reduce water use, while increasing water awareness. Moreover, the language of HB 418 preamble was one of cooperation, rather than strongly regulatory; “…an act relating to water and irrigation; requiring water conservancy districts and water retailers to prepare and adopt or update a water conservation plan and file it with the Division of Water Resources; and requiring the Board of Water Resources to study the plans and make recommendations.” Required to submit their plans by April 1, 1999, Utah‟s water retailers, municipalities and water conservancy districts serving more than 500 connections responded in varying levels of detail. While the requirements of HB 418 were similar to those required by Regional Drinking Water Facilities Plan initiative conducted in Utah to meet the federally mandated 1996 Federal Safe Drinking Water Act; H.B. 418was comprised of ten specific measurable guidelines:
1. The installation and use of water efficient fixtures and appliances, including toilets, shower fixtures and faucets. 2. Residential and commercial landscapes and irrigation that require less water to maintain. 3. More water efficient industrial and commercial processes involving the use of water. 4. Water reuse systems, both potable and not potable. 5. Distribution system leak repair. 6. Dissemination of public information regarding more efficient use of water, including public education programs, customer water use audits, and water saving demonstrations. 7. Water rate structures designed to encourage more efficient use of water. 8. Statutes, ordinances, codes, or regulations designed to encourage more efficient use of water by means such as water efficient fixtures and landscapes. 9. Incentives to implement water efficient techniques, including rebates to water users to encourage the implementation of more water efficient measures. 10. Other measures designed to conserve water.DROUGHT CYCLESWhile state models allocate for projected depletions based on historical evaporation rates from reservoirs, the valuesdo not include adjustments for increased temperatures associated with global warming. The most recent droughtcycle in Utah, (2000-2007) impressed municipalities and water retailers on the necessity of having a viable droughtcontingency plan. During the evaluation of the conservation plans submitted for review from 1998-2008, themajority of the municipalities included severe drought contingency plans as a conservation „Best ManagementPlan.‟Many municipalities had the foresight to implement “increasing block” rate structures, concluding that theypromoted conservation, while ensuring that municipalities had adequate funds for operations and maintenance.North Logan mayor, Val Potter observed on the interrelation between water pricing, drought preparedness andconservation. “The drought got ourattention! Wells are drawndown, pumping costs haveincreased and the cityisfacing the expense ofdeveloping new storageand water. We will need toconserve even after thedrought. Pricingwater forconservation is our besttool.”As the plans were evaluated for thoroughness and conservation measurability by Utah Division of Water Resourcesconservation staff, additional factors were considered. (1) municipality size and (2) the resources available for waterconservation project development.Awareness about the importance of water conservation plans varied fromprogressive and detailed, to brief statements about how water conservation practices were only necessary duringtimes of drought.Salt Lake City, with the largest population centers in Utah considered the definition and scope of
water conservation. “Water conservation is a set of strategies for reducing the volume of water withdrawn from awater supply source, for reducing the loss or waste of water, for maintaining or improving efficiency in the use ofwater, for increasing the recycling and reuse of water, and for preventing the pollution of water….Every person,animal and plant which resides within, works, or passes through our community benefits from waterconservation…”While population and the complexity of the Salt Lake City water system contributed to thethoroughness of their conservation plan, many smaller municipalities also included rate incentive pricing andmoderately detailed water-conservation plans.EVALUATING THE PLANSThe municipalities chosen for review spanned the entire state, from LoganCity located in the northern pan-handleof Utah, to BlandingCity nestled within the red-rock landscapes of the four-corner area in the south. Tourism,particularly in the southern portion of the state contributes to seasonal-peak water use. Those most affected bythese seasonal fluctuations include Blanding, Moab and St. George. Many of the cities also receive water fromconservancy districts, in addition to their own developments. As stated within H.B. 418, all water entities wereresponsible for submitting water conservation plans; and while this study has focused upon municipalities theirconservancy districts are also included.The major water conservancy districts are Jordan Valley WaterConservancy District, Weber Basin WaterConservancy District, CentralUtah Water Conservancy District and Washington County WaterConservancyDistrict. Metropolitan Water District of SaltLake and Sandy is not aconservancy district but is a major wholesale water Population supplier to SLC Municipality Submitted 1999 2003-2007 Conservancy District andSandy. ThereLogan 99/05 42,000 47,000 Bear River C.D. are also nineteen additional waterMorgan 99/04 2,540 2,800 Weber Basin C.D. conservancydistrictsRiverdale 99/05 8,250 8,328 Sub Roy C.D. located throughoutCenterville 99/05 15,000 17,225 Weber Basin C.D. the state.Salt Lake City 99/04 313473 325,000 7 SaltLakeC.D. One of the primaryWest Jordan 99/09 64,200 80,812 JordanValley Water C.D. roles of theVernal 99/05 7,700 7,714 Central Utah Project conservancyMoab 99/06 5,200 5,200 WashingtonCountyC.D.Blanding 99/04 3,299 3,200 Wide Hollow C.D.St. George 99/08 70,000 83,364 WashingtonCountyC.D.
districtsis to assist their customer agencies in reaching the conservation goals theyhave set. For example: JordanValley Water Conservancy District (JVWCD) could never reach its goal of twenty-five percent reduction inwaterdeliveries by 2025 unless all their customer agencies were striving to meet an identical goal. One incentive is water-conservation grants. JVWCD provides $50,000 grants to each of its customer citiesand districts.To receive thegrant a customer agencies must illustrate quantifiable conservation measures that will facilitate the conservancydistrict reaching their conservation goals. West Jordan City is a customer municipality of JVWCD. With a similarwater conserving vision to the conservancy district they have many exceptional water conserving programs theyhave developed from water conservation grants.MEASURING CHANGEThe analysis of the water-conservation plans submitted from 1999-2009, focused upon the implementation of thewater conservation guidelines listed in both H.B. 418, and H.B. 71. In addition, a ranking system of “Currently inUse,” and “Not in Use,” was designated to both indoor, outdoor water conserving features. From the total numberof municipalities that were evaluated, a percentage was established for each water conserving feature studied, and alldata represents a total implementation rather than an evaluation of each individual municipality. Data collected fromthe submitted plans of H.B. 418 (1999), supplied a portrait of a statewide need to increase measureable waterconserving guidelines. From the ten suggested practices outlined within H.B. 418 only two water conservingpractices; water metering for culinary water sources and mulching programs were implemented by fifty percent ofthe selected cities, and conservancy districts. In many instances the submitted water conservation plans lackedreference to a particular guideline.
Not in Use Currently in Use Time/Over Watering Ordinance Community Conservation Group Water Efficient Landscaping Mulching Water Reuse ET Systems Water Meter (culinary) Indoor leak checks Low-flow showers Dual flush toilets Low-flow faucets 0 10 20 30 40 50Table 1:Evaluation of selected Utah municipalities interior (top) and exterior (lower) water conservation programs as submitted in their H.B. 418water conservation plans (1999). Categorized by the rate of use, or in some instances not applicable. Not in Use Currently in Use Time/Watering Ordinances Water Efficient Landscaping ET Weather Stations Water Meter (potable) Low-flow showers Low-flow faucets 0 10 20 30 40 50Table 2: The 2004-2009 evaluation of selected Utah municipalities’ interior (top) and exterior (lower) water conservation programs, as directed byH.B. 71. Categorized by the implementation of water conserving programs outlined within the H.B.
Almost a decade later, H.B. 71 was enacted by the state. Municipalities and conservancy districts were required toreevaluate and resubmit their water conservation plans. Many municipalities, particularly those located within denseurban centers began to implement landscape rebates. Furthermore, the economics of water was considered, asseveral municipalities included changes in their water rate structures. Complimentary water-audits created morepartnerships between conservancy districts and provided an environment where „Community ConservationGroups‟could flourish. Additional water conservation measures, including water reuse in the landscape, and watermetering for secondary water saw an increase though it still ranked below fifty percent. City of West Jordan Estimated Costs of Water Savings of Conservation Additional measures within H.B. 71 were included Programs into the new plans. Several conservancy districts now had demonstration water conservation Cost per Acre-Feet of Program landscapes for area citizens and businesses to glean Water Savings inspiration from, and over sixty percent had Commercial Landscape Ordinance $14 measureable results from their water education ULFT Rebate Program $75 programs. Other successful measures included large-user water conservation programs for “Water Check” Audit Program $50 industry, municipal parks, and by-ways. West 4th Grade Educational Program $235 Jordan illustrated the estimated costs of water- savings of their conservation programs, and theassociated costs per acre-feet.RAINWATER HARVESTING: A POPULAR DIVERSIONRecent legislation has recently added another dimension to water conservation efforts, rainwater harvesting. Whilethe harvesting of rainwater is an ancient worldwide practice dating back to circa 1,500 B.C. (Hicks, 2008),individuals have been unable to practice it due to the state of Utah‟s established water laws that follow the Doctrineof Prior Appropriation. The major tenants of the law are “First in time is first in right.” and “Use it or lose it.” Duringthe early-anglo settlement the right to use water was simply established by diverting the water from its primarysource and then applying it for a beneficial use.
Consequently, the prior interpretation of rainwater harvesting meant that water was being removed from usedownstream, and appeared to contradict the “First in time, first in right,” doctrine. However, Senate Bill 128 isrepresentative with how individuals view water in Utah and may promote greater water stewardship. While theamount of water that can be harvested is only 2,500 gallons in an underground container or 55 gallons in two aboveground containers/parcel (lot), it may facilitate increased wise-water use applications of non-potable water inlandscape and toilet-flushing. Particularly, when rainwater harvesting contributes positively to the equation thatdescribes monthly conservation practices: Supply >Demand (Kinkade-Levario, 2007).THE ULTIMATE PARTNERSHIP: PRICING AND CONSERVATIONHouse Bill 418 forges a link between water rates and conservation with the statement that, “Water conservationplans may include information regarding: (among other things) water rate structures designed to encourage moreefficient use of water.” The latest document produced by the Utah Division of Water Resources in its State WaterPlanning Program, titled The Jordan River Basin Plan, points out the major difficulty in setting water rates forconservation in Utah. Water is cheap. The average cost per 1,000 gallons of water in the JordanRiver Basin, wheremost of the people live is just $1.60. The state average is $1.15 compared to the national average of $2.50 (UDWR,2010).A widespread custom used in setting water rates is to set the price of water at a level where revenues equal the costof delivery. To stay true to this cost of service principle cities and districts avoid increasing the price of water toincentivize customers to achieve their conservation goals. Instead, some utilities have moved into some innovativeconservation rate structures. Salt Lake City, for example adopted a seasonal rate structure, as have five other majorwater suppliers in SaltLakeCounty. Some suppliers have added an increasing block feature to their summer rate.A somewhat new form of rate structure that is slowly gaining popularity sets a water budget or allocation for eachcustomer in the residential, commercial or other customer classes. No water providers in Utah have implementedthis as yet but one major conservancy districts and one improvement district are taking a serious look. This waterbudget rate structure combines improved education on an enhanced water bill with tough overage charges for waterused in excess of the water budget. With this one the utility is responsible for deciding what amount of waterconstitutes efficient use for each customer. The customer is responsible for using water appropriately or paying amuch higher price for the wasted water. In some cases the extra revenue from the higher rates is used to fundconservation programs targeted toward helping those who are using excessive amounts.
Utah‟s most popular conservation rate structure is the increasing block rate with 42 percent of the drinking watersystems using it. As also with the other rate structures mentioned, a base fee ranging from $2.88 to a high of $36.00is applied for each customer and often no water is granted for this fee (Utah Division Water Resources, 2010)Anincreasing commodity charge is then set for each succeeding price block.CONCLUSION: CONSERVATION’S BOTTOM LINEMunicipalities of all population sizes implemented many proactive and measureable additions into their waterconservation plans. Several larger municipalities had exemplary water conservation plans that were bothquantifiable and visionary. West JordanCity is one example of successfully implementing comprehensive BMP‟s.Since H.B. 418 their per capita water use has decreased from 227 gallons per capita per day (gpcpd) to 193 gpcpd.These values reflect a 15% decrease in use from 2000. Moreover, the effectiveness of their water conservationprograms is reflected in their expenditures and project water savings (WJC Conservation Plan, 2009). Evaluation of the selected plans illustrated that conservation, education and equitable water rate structures are a necessary component for dynamic water conserving plans. The magnitude of providing adequate and quality water, while promoting water conservation ethics will require continued vigilance and evaluation of the best management practices (BMP‟s) described within both house bills. The future of Utah‟s water is dependent upon commitment from the entire spectrum of water users and a heightenedrecognition of our interdependency to all life and that our actions will benefit a future that we cannot see.REFFERENCESAnderson, D.L. (2002) The Colorado River, Utah’s Perspective, Utah Division of Water Resources,2nd ed. State of UtahDepartment of Natural Resources.
http://www.water.utah.gov/Interstate/TheColoradoRiverart.pdf.]Gleick, P.H., Chalecki, E.L.(2001) The Impacts of Climate Changes for Water Resources of the Colorado and Sacramento-San Joaquin River Basins. Paper No. 99085 of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association.2000.Hicks, B. (2008) A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Rainwater Harvesting at Commercial Facilities in Arlington County,Virginia.Masters Thesis. Nickolas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences.DukeUniversity.http://www.rainharvest.com/more/MastersProjectRainHarvest_200805.pdfKindade-Levario, H.( 2007.) Design for Water, Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada. New Society Publishers.Longuevergne, L. et al (2011). GRACE Hydrological estimates for small basins: Evaluating processing approaches on the HighPlains Aquifer, USA. Water Resources Research, VOL. 46, W11517.Utah Division of Water Resources, (2010).Jordan River Basin Plan.pg.90-91.West Jordan City 2009 Water Conservation Plan Update. (2009). Current Water Conservation Programs. Ch. 3. pg.11-12.