A newly-envisioned state water plan would identify available resources, the optimization of their use and management of those water supplies under a measure that received passage in a legislative committee on Friday.

Rep. Casey Snider, R-Paradise, has been working on HB280 since last June with multiple entities on how to craft such a vision going forward, especially as it relates to the identification of water infrastructure needs and a study looking at what possible fees would be assessed in the future.

HB280 received a 12-1 thumbs-up from the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee on Friday.

With its $5 million appropriation from the general fund, the proposal would require:

  • Publication of a state water plan by the Division of Water Resources by the end of 2026.
  • A study due Oct. 31, 2024, making recommendations on what funds or accounts would be tapped to pay for water infrastructure projects.
  • A study due Oct. 31, 2025, on whether any fees would be imposed and what entity may be assessed that fee.

The proposal in its original version had received multiple objections from small water districts, the Utah League of Cities and Towns and the agricultural community due to the fee portion. Snider then modified the bill to have the fees to a study item — easing concerns of multiple players involved in the process.

Snider’s measure establishes the water infrastructure fund “because there needs to be the ability to have a long term plan and the dollars that come with it for the future of the state,” he said.

This new enterprise fund would be made up of money from a variety of sources, including the state, the federal government, or grants and donations.

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Candice Hasenyager, director of the Utah Division of Water Resources, said the second version of the bill gives the division the time and tools to meet the expectations outlined by HB280 over the next couple of years.

“We really appreciate the representative’s time and work to address the challenging issues and his vision for this bill,” she said. “You know that saying that there’s only one way to eat an elephant — and that’s one bite at a time.”

Dex Winterton, general manager of the Moon Lake Water Users Association, said he hopes as the planning moves forward there is consideration for smaller, more self-contained systems.

“We’d like those involved to keep an open mind for systems that are fully developed, and especially agricultural or irrigation systems and perhaps allow for exemptions, or opt out provisions for such systems,” he said.

Warren Peterson, speaking on behalf of the Utah Farm Bureau, said the organization stands behind the bill because it embraces comprehensive water planning on a statewide basis.

“It’s an ambitious planning goal,” he said.