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Utah megadrought
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Utah Rivers Council calls on state to change water policies to end drought

(Low water levels are pictured in Echo Reservoir north of Coalville on Thursday, May 6, 2021. Photo: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – After Governor Spencer Cox’s recently called on Utahn’s to pray for rain, one advocacy group says prayers are not enough to help fix the Utah drought.

The Utah Rivers Council believes there are a lot of water policies state leaders can change now to help conserve water. 

“There’s nothing wrong with prayer,” said Zachary Frankel, Executive Director of the Utah Rivers Council, “but there’s a suite of state policies we could implement to address this drought which is being ignored,” said Frankel.

Frankel believes getting rid of property taxes on water is one step forward to help the drought.  

 “Utahns are paying property taxes on their homes, their businesses, and even on the automobiles, and those taxes go to lower the price of water not just for our homeowners, but for the schools across the street from us that are using vast quantities of water and yet are paying some of the cheapest water rates in the US,” Frankel told KSL Newsradio.    

Frankel reported Utahn’s are paying property taxes to government water suppliers to lower the price of water. He argues big state institutions like public universities, schools and government facilities are tax-exempt.

This means Utahn’s are essentially “subsidizing” those water costs.

Frankel also wants to get rid of these taxes so the cost of water will be passed on to users which in turn, would incentivize people to conserve it. 

“It’s in direct opposition to the free market and fiscal conservatives nature that Utahn’s have expressed repeatedly that they want out of their elected officials and yet we’re finding a failure of courage among our elected officials to take on the special interests that are collecting those property taxes,” he said.   

Those special interests, he says, are the water districts he says are the ones collecting the taxes. 

“The water districts that are collecting these property taxes use that revenue for lobbyists to keep those property taxes in place.”