February 05, 2024

2024 Legislative Updates

Dear FRIENDS,

As we enter the final weeks of the 2024 Utah Legislative Session, several relevant bills are progressing or have been passed. These bills are primarily filling gaps in existing legislation. Our priorities include efforts to advance water conservation, measurement, and shepherding. Please do your part to preserve and protect the Great Salt Lake ecosystem by contacting your representatives regarding legislation relevant to the health of Great Salt Lake.

Action Alert:

H.B. 11 Water Efficient Landscaping Requirements, sponsored by Rep. Owens and Sen. Winterton, limits the installation of nonfunctional turf for new government facilities in the Great Salt Lake Basin. The Great Salt Lake Commissioner's Strategic Plan identifies reduction in nonfunctional turf as a strategy to reduce outdoor water use and advance municipal conservation.

We support the state setting an example by practicing water-efficient landscaping for its buildings in the Great Salt Lake Basin.

Status as of 2/19: Passed by House; Circled on third reading in Senate on 2/2

Who to Contact: Please ask the Senators who voted against HB11 to support water-efficient landscaping practices in the Great Salt Lake Basin.

 

Priority Bills:

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H.B. 62 Utah Water Ways Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Owens and Sen. Sandall, directs coordination between the nonprofit statewide partnership, Utah Water Ways, and the State Board of Education to expand education about Utah's water systems. Coordination with Utah Water Ways to enhance public education is an action identified in the Great Salt Lake Commissioner's Strategic Plan. As a provider of environmental education programming at Great Salt Lake, FRIENDS values the power of education to shape the next generation of environmental stewards.  

We support expanded education about Utah's water systems in the K-12 public education system.

Status as of 2/19: Passed by House; scheduled for third reading in Senate

 

H.B. 401 Water Usage Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Owens, is an amended version of H.B. 538, which passed the House in the 2023 Legislative Session but failed in the Senate. It prohibits the watering of lawn or turf from October 1 to April 1 in counties in the Great Salt Lake watershed. It does not apply to irrigation of trees, shrubs, gardens, newly established turf, or agriculture. Violating the prohibitions would be a civil infraction with a fine of at least $50 for the first violation and $100 for additional violations in the same year. The bill directs the Utah Division of Water Resources to report an estimate of water saved by this restriction. According to the Great Salt Lake Commissioner's Strategic Plan, 60% of Utah's residential water use goes toward outdoor irrigation. The Plan identifies municipal water conservation and quantification of water saved as actions to increase inflows committed to Great Salt Lake.

We support this effort to reduce outdoor irrigation in communities throughout the Great Salt Lake basin.

Status as of 2/19: Assigned to House Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee

 

H.B. 448 State Water Program Reporting Requirements, sponsored by Rep. Ward, requires the Utah Division of Water Resources to monitor and report on the state's water optimization efforts.

We support improved coordination and monitoring of optimization programs, a priority identified in the Great Salt Lake Commissioner's Strategic Plan.

Status as of 2/19: Recommended by House Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee; scheduled for third reading in House

 

H.B. 453 Great Salt Lake Revisions, sponsored by Rep. Snider and Sen. Sandall, expands on 2023's H.B. 513 to consolidate and more clearly define the management responsibilities of the Utah Division of Forestry, Fires & State Lands (DFFSL) with regard to the Lake. It would allow DFFSL, under certain circumstances, to acquire property and water rights. It would require mineral extraction operators to enter into a cooperative agreement, and it would give preference to non-consumptive technology for lithium extraction. Most importantly, H.B. 453 requires the State Engineer to establish a distribution management plan, which will function as a water budget for the Lake. This plan will set limits on what the mineral extraction companies can take from the Lake during low water years, and it will protect water conserved upstream for the benefit of the Lake from being diverted into evaporation ponds.

We support this effort to modernize oversight of mineral extraction on Great Salt Lake. Listen to our comment in support of H.B. 453 here, and find more background about mineral extraction regulations here.

Status as of 2/19: Passed by House; assigned to Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee

 

H.B. 427 Water Revisions, sponsored by Rep. King, directs the Utah Division of Water Resources and the Division of Water Rights to jointly study the creation of a water database and center.

We support the exploration of tools that can improve water measurement, management, and coordination across state agencies.

Status as of 2/19: Recommended by House Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee; scheduled for third reading in House

 

H.J.R. 27 Joint Resolution Encouraging Water-efficient Landscaping Ordinances for New Construction, sponsored by Rep. Owens and Sen. McKell, recognizes the importance of water to the state; supports water-efficient landscaping as a key strategy for meeting water optimization goals; and recommends that municipalities and counties adopt water use elements in general plans as well as water-efficient landscaping ordinances for new construction.

We support the state's encouragement of water conservation by municipalities.

Status as of 2/19: Recommended by House Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee

 

S.B. 118 Water Efficiency Amendments, sponsored by Sen. McKell and Rep. Musselman, appropriates $1 million for the Utah Division of Water Resources, which will be granted to water districts for programs incentivizing the use of water-efficient landscaping in new residential development.

We support incentives for water-efficient landscaping as Utah continues to grow.

Status as of 2/19: Passed by Senate; on agenda for House Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee on Wednesday, 2/21 at 8am

 

S.B. 196 Great Salt Lake Amendments, sponsored by Sen. Blouin, directs the Great Salt Lake Commissioner to create and report on a plan to maximize the Lake's inflows in wet water years. The Great Salt Lake Commissioner's Strategic Plan recognizes the need to plan for streamflow variability and capitalize on wet years to reach target lake levels. 

We support the development of a plan to guide action and bolster Lake levels during and following above average water years.

Status as of 2/19: Passed by Senate

 

Passed Bills:

H.B. 61 Water Measuring and Accounting Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Albrecht and Sen. McKell "modifies the state water policy to allow for the use of telemetry in water data collection and permits the State Engineer to make rules governing telemetry and water distribution accounting. The bill also removes outdated language regarding rulemaking authority on preferences of water rights" (Smith Hartvigsen, PLLC).

Expanding the use of telemetry and distribution accounting for improved water measurement and shepherding are priorities identified by the Great Salt Lake Strike Team Report and the Great Salt Lake Commissioner's Strategic Plan.

We support this recognition of telemetry and distribution accounting within state water policy.

Status as of 2/9: Passed by House and Senate

 

S.B. 18 Water Modifications, sponsored by Sen. Sandall and Rep. Snider, refines 2023's S.B. 277 and addresses water saved through agricultural water optimization projects. S.B. 18 moves rulemaking power to the state engineer, "adding language clarifying the definition of saved water and the administrative procedures to secure its separate use and protect it from forfeiture. It also clarifies that saved water cannot increase the depletion of the underlying water right" (Smith Hartvigsen, PLLC).

Protections for saved water are critical for participants in agricultural optimization programs and shepherding saved water to Great Salt Lake, as recognized by the Great Salt Lake Commissioner's Strategic Plan. We support these protections for saved water.

Status as of 2/14: Passed by Senate and House

 

S.B. 57 Utah Constitutional Sovereignty Act, sponsored by Sen. Sandall and Rep. Ivory, allows the Legislature, by concurrent resolution, to prohibit the enforcement of a federal directive within the state if the Legislature determines the federal directive violates the principles of state sovereignty. The bill describes how a federal directive may violate the principles of state sovereignty and requires the Legislature to consult with the attorney general regarding the potential impact of a concurrent resolution on litigation.

We oppose S.B. 57's potential to impact agencies within the Utah Department of Environmental Quality and to undermine delegated federal programs such as the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act.

Status as of 1/31: Signed into law by Governer Cox

 

S.B. 77 Water Rights Restricted Account Amendments, sponsored by Sen. Sandall and Rep. Snider, "modifies the purposes for which money in the Water Rights Restricted Account may be used. The bill adds that the Division of Water Rights may use the Account to pay for installing, operating, and maintaining water measurement infrastructure and for sharing in the costs of installing stream gauges (with the U.S. Geological Survey)" (Smith Hartvigsen, PLLC).

Installation of water measurement systems is a priority identified in the Great Salt Lake Commissioner's Strategic Plan.

We support this expanded funding pathway for water measurement infrastructure.

Status as of 2/7: Passed by Senate and House

 

How You Can Help:  

Contacting your representatives during the legislative session is an important responsibility and really does make a difference. Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with this legislation and reach out with any questions you might have, then contact your representatives and let them know that you support initiatives to preserve and protect Great Salt Lake. 

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