Utah Legislature passes criticized, generational out-of-state water bill

Feb 29, 2024, 3:04 PM

Fields in Utah County, near Spanish Fork, on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024....

Fields in Utah County, near Spanish Fork, on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024. (Scott G Winterton/Deseret News 2024)

(Scott G Winterton/Deseret News 2024)

SALT LAKE CITY— The Utah House and Senate have passed a bill that creates a way to get new water sources from outside state lines.

SB211 is sponsored by Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, with House Speaker Mike Schultz , R-Hooper, as the floor sponsor. It would create a new council with the authority to negotiate with other nearby states to get more water into Utah.

The council would also become part of a commission with several major water districts and the Utah Division of Water Resources.

In a previous committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Adams said early Utahns looked long into the future when it came to water. He said the same is needed from people today.

“They didn’t have a view just for their kids and their grandkids, but they looked five generations down the road … and had a 100-year vision,” Adams said. “I’m trying to have that same 100-year vision.”

For example, the council would have the authority to negotiate a water trade from California, similar to something Nevada is already doing.

Nevada is helping the Golden State build desalinization plants to turn ocean water into usable freshwater. In exchange, Nevada gets to keep some of the water California uses from the Colorado River.

This council would allow Utah to try something like that or a host of other options.

Behind closed doors

However, this bill has gotten some public criticism since the new council’s work would be exempt from Utah’s public records laws. This would make it impossible to know with whom or what they are negotiating.

Adams has defended this portion of the bill citing that negotiations with water are very sensitive and need to be approached carefully.

“When you talk about water most people bring a shotgun and a pony shovel with them,” Adams said. “It’s very difficult to have those conversations, but they’re going to have to…some of them very very significant.”

Adams also clarified that while this council would work behind closed doors, neither they, nor the commission can:

  • Use taxpayer money
  • Create policies
  • Own or alter any existing Utah water rights
  • Own property

Adams said they must also abide by the direction of the state water engineer. They are also required to report annually to the house speaker, senate president, the governor, and multiple legislative committees.

The bill is now on its way to the governor’s desk.

Keep reading:

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Utah Drought

Deseret News writer Joe Bauman in the background looks at the irrigation ditches with no water and ...

Adam Small

More than half of Utah is now ‘abnormally dry,’ but still not in a drought.

The latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor lists 53% of Utah's land as 'abnormally dry' but the state is still not in a drought.

4 days ago

East/west traffic on 4700 South at Bangerter Highway is going to shut down for a year due to constr...

Adam Small

How Utah construction workers are battling triple digit heat

Construction crews are having to deal with intense heat in Utah state this summer by taking breaks and communicating with one another.

11 days ago

Shrinking Great Salt Lake...

Ben Winslow, FOX 13

Lake-effect drought? New study shows a shrinking Great Salt Lake may exacerbate Utah’s drought conditions

A new study shows the impact of the shrinking Great Salt Lake could be exacerbating drought conditions.

13 days ago

Colorado River Basin...

Adam Small

Utah, other Colorado River Basin states want to ensure conserved water gets to Lake Powell

Water managers from Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico recently adopted a resolution to begin work to create a program that tracks conserved water.

14 days ago

Great Salt Lake...

Adam Small

Great Salt Lake and Lake Powell reach multi-year highs, but one is already losing water

Great Salt Lake and Lake Powell have seen increased their water levels however, Great Salt Lake has started to recede.

26 days ago

Parts of Utah have been given a heat advisory on Sunday. A view of the state Capitol and the Salt L...

Kennedy Camarena

Parts of Utah under excessive heat warning

Utah has been given two different kinds of heat advisories for parts of the state by the National Weather Service on Sunday.

30 days ago

Sponsored Articles

A young woman smiles while reading the menu at a lakeside restaurant, enjoying the panoramic view o...

Bear Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau

The best restaurants to try in Bear Lake

Save this guide to the best restaurants in Bear Lake when you need to find a place to dine during your next visit.

Female leg stepping on weigh scales. Healthy lifestyle, food and sport concept....

Health Utah

Sustainable weight loss: the science-backed way to achieve it

Learn more about Debbie's weight loss journey with Health Utah, who have a unique weight loss philosophy for success.

Underwater shot of the fisherman holding the fish...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Your Bear Lake fishing guide

Bear Lake offers year-round fishing opportunities. By preparing ahead of time, you might go home with a big catch!

A group of people cut a purple ribbon...


Comcast announces major fiber network expansion in Utah

Comcast's commitment to delivering extensive coverage signifies a monumental leap toward a digitally empowered future for Utahns.

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

Utah Legislature passes criticized, generational out-of-state water bill