Flagged Bills: SB 28 & SCR 1 – Water System Conservation Pricing & Concurrent Resolution Encouraging Universal Metering of Water Systems – Sen. Scott Jenkins

Senator Scott Jenkins (Republican - Plain City)
Senator Scott Jenkins (Republican – Plain City)

Utah has a water problem.

One would assume that Utah, being the second driest state in the nation, would have a firm understanding of all aspects of its hydrological infrastructure. It was for this reason that lawmakers were shocked and angered to discover in May that the state was woefully lacking in even the most basic pieces of data necessary to make policy decisions. Local water district leaders never had to verify their data and, in one instance, the data provided to the state was actually for an identically named city in New York.

At best this is pathetic – at worst it poses a very real threat to our ability to grow and prosper.

[pullquote]With an alarming lack of reporting around our water usage, Senator Scott Jenkins is looking to start a culture of conservancy with SB 28 and SCR 1[/pullquote]Senator Scott Jenkins (Republican – Plain City) is taking two small, but necessary, steps in the right direction to help correct the situation with SB 28 – Water System Conservation Pricing and SCR 1 – Concurrent Resolution Encouraging Universal Metering of Water Systems.

SCR 1 serves as the “why” for Jenkins, who points out in the resolution that many secondary water and some culinary systems in the state are not metered and that metering water systems is one tool water districts can do to help conserve water. The resolution makes the logical conclusion that, if people know how much water they are using, they have a better idea on how to save.

Now, all this is well and good, but by nature resolutions don’t have any bite to them. That is where SB 28 comes in.

SB 28 requires that all retail water providers (defined as those who provide culinary water to 500 or more connections to the system), must establish culinary water rates that charge more as users use more of the precious resource.The only way one can easily establish when people move to higher rates is through the direct metering of water flow.

This legislation does has its limitations that may need further refinement prior to final approval.

The biggest challenge Jenkins will probably face is that his bill, if approved, will become law later in the year – meaning that districts will have to comply by creating policies and installing meters to any and all connections that require culinary water. This may prove quite the task to achieve in a relatively short period of time.

From a larger standpoint, Jenkin’s bill and resolution only scratch the surface of Utah water usage. A 2010 report by the Department of Natural Resources notes that, though residential usage of all municipal and industrial (M&I) total use equals about 71 percent, this is only a portion of total water usage in the state. In the grand scheme of things M&I use accounts for just 19 percent of total water usage in the state, the remaining 81 percent is consumed by agriculture.

So, will SB 28 and SCR 1 make a difference? Most likely yes, but only because it will create a culture of conservancy. Even drastic reductions in M&I usage will only create modest gains in overall water conservancy. Jenkins’ bills are a good start, but they can’t be the end of the conversation.

To contact Senator Jenkins, click here or call 801-731-5120 (Home).

You can track this, and all of our other flagged bills, by clicking here. Need an explanation of scores? Click Here.

For SB 28:

Impact on Average Utahn 0-1-2-3-4-5
Need for Legislation 0-1-2-3-4-5
Lemon Score 0-1-2-3-4-5
Overall Grade B

For SCR 1

Impact on Average Utahn 0-1-2-3-4-5
Need for Legislation 0-1-2-3-4-5
Lemon Score 0-1-2-3-4-5
Overall Grade C

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