POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Utah passes agriculture water optimization measure, weighs another change

Feb 15, 2024, 5:30 AM

Kelby Johnson stands next to a sand filtration system for drip irrigation on his 100-acre farm in B...

Kelby Johnson stands next to a sand filtration system for drip irrigation on his 100-acre farm in Benson on Nov. 16, 2023. A bill tied to agriculture water optimization was passed Wednesday another advanced through a committee. (Jeffrey Dahdah, KSL TV)

(Jeffrey Dahdah, KSL TV)

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that allows farmers and ranchers who optimize their water use to sell their conserved water for conservation purposes without losing their water rights cleared the Utah Legislature on Wednesday, as efforts to better track “saved” water intensifies.

The Utah House of Representatives voted 66-3 on Wednesday to adopt SB18 after the Senate approved the measure with a 27-0 vote last month. The bill will head to Gov. Spencer Cox’s desk for his signature.

The vote happened after members of the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee unanimously voted to advance HB448 earlier in the day. That bill would require the Utah Division of Water Resources to monitor state legislative water optimization efforts along the Great Salt Lake, Colorado River and Sevier River basins, and report its findings back to the state.

SB18

Sen. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, who sponsored SB18, explained on the Senate floor last month his measure is a “continuation” of efforts last year to mark “saved water” as a new beneficial use while the Legislature also added $200 million to the state’s agricultural water optimization program.

Saved water is the amount of water that is reduced when a water user improves the efficiency of their equipment. The bill proposed that anyone who saves water would have the option to lease or sell the value of the saved water based on measures approved by the state engineer.

Read the full story and more from Carter Williams on KSL.com.

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Utah passes agriculture water optimization measure, weighs another change