Utah water restrictions vary based on rights and state history

May 9, 2022, 4:22 PM
Utah water restrictions...
FILE: A man stands at the edge of Pineview Reservoir near Huntsville, Weber County, on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. Photo credit: Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Why are Utah water restrictions so confusing and seemingly unfair to residents in one city yet generous to citizens of another?

For example, different cities in the Weber Water Basin District have different restrictions:

In West Haven, a homeowner is allowed — beginning in mid-May — to water outside once a week. But in Roy, homeowners can water their lawns and plants twice a week.

Do the state’s and the West’s ongoing, historic drought play a major part in today’s water restrictions?

“There are a lot of different water users and water providers that leverage water off of the Weber River and the Weber River basin drainage,” said the Assistant General Manager of the Weber Water Basin Conservancy District, Jon Parry. He discussed cities’ varying water restrictions with KSL NewsRadio’s Debbie Dujanovic.

Water-use hierarchy in Utah

Under Utah water rights law there exists The Doctrine of Prior Appropriation, Parry said, which means first in time, first in right. In a nutshell, that means the first people to use the water have a higher priority than others.

“First in time, first in right” was developed in the 1840s by early Utah settlers who first made beneficial use of water should be entitled to continue to use it and have precedence over those who came later, according to VF Law.

Related: Ogden mayor declares water shortage, implements watering restrictions

Parry said the doctrine still dictates the administration of Utah water rights, which is the same in many Western states.

The Weber Basin drainage facilitates four federal projects. They all predate the Weber Basin Project, which didn’t come into fruition until the 1950s.

“My goodness, I can see why you’re saying this can get complicated — and probably confusing for homeowners,” said Dujanovic. 

Utah water restrictions and the drought

“The Weber Water Conservancy District is a regional water supplier up here in northern Utah that operates as a junior water-right holder,” Parry said. “We’re farther down that hierarchy when we get our water versus the Echo (Reservoir) water users or the Pineview (Reservoir) water users.”

The Weber Water Conservancy District leverages water from reservoirs like Wanship, Willard Bay and Lost Creek, Parry said. 

It’s difficult to fill up those reservoirs in an ongoing drought, he said, and thus the water restrictions.

Related: Leaders in Davis County tell residents to prepare for another Utah drought

“How do people find out about how these water restrictions are impacting their own cities?” Debbie asked.

“So the best advice I can give is find out who your water provider is and give them a call,” Parry said.

Customers of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District can find out more about watering restrictions due to the state’s ongoing, historic drought here.


Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  

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Utah water restrictions vary based on rights and state history