Bill would change “use it or lose it” provision of Utah water rights

Feb 9, 2022, 4:26 PM
great salt lake water rights...
FILE -- The waters of the Great Salt Lake barely reach the marina on Antelope Island on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)
(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers could approve a bill that would no longer punish farmers if they don’t use all the water allocated to them

Utah water rights explained

Water rights are granted under state law, through a policy known as “beneficial use.”

Current Utah water law requires anyone who holds water rights to use up their allocation. If they don’t, that water allotted to them could go to someone else.

H.B. 33 would change the law so farmers could leave some of their water in streams without losing their allotted amount. It would also change the definition of “beneficial use” to include leaving the water flowing in streams, either to benefit fish and other wildlife or to help maintain the level of the Great Salt Lake.

Why the proposed change? 

Sen. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, is the Senate sponsor of the bill and a farmer.

“This just would allow the beneficial use category to be expanded to include in-stream flow,” Sandall told KSL NewsRadio. 

He says the change would remove an obstacle to water conservation that water rights holders currently face.

“It may be that on some years, they can conserve, and they put that water in the stream. Maybe they do that for multiple years, but according to water law, if they did that for seven years, they could lose that right,” Sandall said.

The bill is supported by conservation groups including Friends of Great Salt Lake.

H.B. 33 has already passed the House of Representatives. Sandall says it will be on the agenda for the Senate Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee next week.

More from the Legislature: 

Today’s Top Stories

Utah Drought

Sprinkler is shown. Salt Lake water usage was down, saving almost 3 billion gallons...
Kate Davis

Salt Lake saved almost 3 billion gallons of water this season

Lower Salt Lake water usage led the county to save billions of gallons of water in the face of Utah's ongoing drought.
5 days ago
Dry lakebed...
Rachel Ramirez, CNN

The upstream water used to keep Lake Powell afloat is running out

The dam is a key source of energy in the region, generating power for as many as 5.8 million homes and businesses in seven states, and is at high risk of being forced offline should the lake's level drop below 3,490 feet above sea level.
7 days ago
powell plane crash...
Lindsay Aerts

A pipeline from Lake Powell to Washington County is taking shape

Utah is moving forward with the Lake Powell Pipeline, but opponents say it's too costly and that Utah doesn't have the right to divert the water.
11 days ago
utah heat high elevation people on sidewalk in salt lake city...
Becky Bruce

It’s not just hot – this September heat wave is impacting high altitude locations as well

Traveling to high altitude does not afford much relief from the heat wave in northern Utah this week, with blame falling on the high-pressure system above.
20 days ago
The Great Salt Lake has reached a historic low level of water....
Alejandro Lucero

Utah youth to hold funeral style demonstration for Great Salt Lake

A funeral style demonstration will be held by Utah Youth Environmental Solutions Network on Sept. 3. It will begin at 11 a.m.
24 days ago
Gov. Spencer Cox is pictured....
Adam Small

Gov. Cox feels optimistic about the future of The Great Salt Lake, air quality and job growth

Gov. Spencer Cox spoke on numerous issues at Utah State University on Thursday, stating he was optimistic about the issues facing Utah.
24 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Bill would change “use it or lose it” provision of Utah water rights