Water Legislation and Funding Passed During the 2023 General Session

March 8, 2023

In the past two years, lawmakers have allocated nearly a billion dollars for water conservation efforts and development, further mitigating Utah’s ongoing water issues and planning for future growth.

“I’m proud of the Legislature’s foresight and continued effort to conserve, optimize and develop new water sources, and find lasting solutions to Utah’s and the West’s water crisis,” said President J. Stuart Adams. “Utah has had an amazing winter with above-average snowfall and moisture, helping solve our immediate water issues. However, we still have a long way to go. The legislation we passed this session was another great step to improving Utah’s future and ensuring we are preparing the best state for our kids and grandkids. Water is not an issue we can solve in one legislative session, and will continue to be something we look at and work to solve every year.”

“One of my main priorities as an elected official is ensuring we protect our most important resource, water,” said Sen. Scott Sandall. “Throughout the 2023 General Session, we’ve had great discussions and taken action to conserve and preserve Utah’s water. By taking action now, we are placing our state on a path of success for future generations.”

“There is no doubt that we are grateful for the wet winter we’ve had,” said Speaker Brad Wilson. “However, one season of plenty will not wash away two decades of drought. This legislative session, we took action to increase water capacity, expand conservation efforts, prepare for future water needs, and enhance outreach efforts. We also invested nearly $500 million in Utah’s water resources. We continue to take our water needs very seriously and will continue to take steps to ensure Utah has sufficient water for generations to come.”

During the 2023 General Session, the Legislature funded over $500 million for water conversation, development and infrastructure. 

Water Funding Highlights:

  • Agricultural Water Optimization – $200 million
    • Expands the existing program in the Department of Agriculture and Food, which provides matching grants for irrigation efficiency projects.
  • Water Reuse Reservoir and Desalination – $50 million each year for four years, $200 million total
    • Provides a loan to be used in Washington County for $50 million per year for four years on water reuse, dam construction, desalination and other conservation projects to be repaid to the Water Infrastructure Restricted Account.
  • Wasatch Front Aqueduct Resilience – $50 million
    • Upgrades pipelines to improve seismic resiliency for water conservancy districts and other aqueduct projects that have received FEMA funds.  
  • Water Infrastructure Projects – $50 million
    • Funds grant/loan programs administered by the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity for water projects in coordination with the Department of Natural Resources.
  • Agriculture Water Optimization Loans for Matching Requirements – $20 million
    • Provides loans through the Agriculture Resource Development Loan program to allow producers to borrow for the required matching funds for the Agriculture Water Optimization grant program.
  • Dam Safety Upgrades – $25 million
    • Funds upgrades to approximately 100 high-hazard dams in the state that do not meet current dam safety standards. 
  • Secondary Water Meters – $18 million
    • Provides additional grant funds for the Secondary Water Meters program established during the 2022 General Session.
  • State Match for Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund – $12.73 million
    • Assists the Department of Environmental Quality, Division of Drinking Water in meeting federal funds requirements and to receive its full allotment of federal grant funds.
  • Amendments Related to the Great Salt Lake (H.B. 491) – $10 million (one-time) and $2.5 million (ongoing)
    • Creates the Office of the Great Salt Lake Commissioner to develop strategies to deal with the fluctuating lake level, encourage the development and preservation of the lake, protect wildlife and recreational facilities, maintain the lake’s floodplain as a hazard zone, and promote water quality management.
  • Cloud Seeding Program – $12 million (one-time) and $5 million (ongoing)
    • Expands the existing program in the Department of Natural Resources to increase cloud seeding, a weather modification technique that increases a cloud’s ability to produce rain or snow. 
  • Air and Water Innovation Grant – $8 million
    • Expands the Air and Water Innovation Grant as established in H.B. 326 State Innovation Amendments from the 2022 General Session.
  • Colorado River Authority of Utah – $7 million
    • Expands the Colorado River Authority IT and data management capabilities and expands a pilot program to promote agriculture water conservation in the Colorado River watershed.
  • Wetland and Wildlife Acquisition – $6 million
    • Allocated funds to acquire a wetland property near the Great Salt Lake.
  • State Match for Water Quality Revolving Loan Fund – $5.8 million
    • Meets federal funds matching requirements to enable the Department of Environmental Quality, Division of Water Quality to receive its full allotment of federal grant funds.
  • Water Distribution and Measurement Automation – $5 million (one-time) and $449,000 (ongoing)
    • Funds installing, operating, maintaining, and replacing new and existing measuring devices and telemetry stations across the entire state. Adds engineering staff to meet new demands and carry out the tasks of device installation, automating data reporting, and modeling on a statewide basis.
  • Streambank Stabilization (Great Salt Lake Watershed) – $5 million
    • Provides one-time funding for high-priority streambank stabilization projects in the Great Salt Lake Watershed.
  • Emergency Water Shortages Amendments (H.B. 150) – $5 million
    • Provides funding to the Agriculture Resource Development Fund for emergency water shortage loans.
  • Utah Lake Improvements – $5 million
    • Funds improvements to the marina, trail and access point at Utah Lake.
  • Water Efficient Landscaping Incentives (S.B. 118) – $5 million (one-time) and $3 million (ongoing)
    • Provides additional funds for the Division of Water Resources’ existing turf buyback program and provides mechanisms to protect the state’s investments.
  • Utah Water Ways (H.B. 307) – $2 million (one-time) and $1 million (ongoing)
    • Creates a non-profit to promote and educate on water conservation and optimal water use.
  • Digital Lakebed Topography of the Great Salt Lake and Bear Lake – $1.8 million
    • Funds the acquisition of bathymetric lidar data for the Great Salt Lake and Bear Lake, analyze that data to produce maps and submit the data to the Utah Geospatial Resource Center for archiving and distribution.
  • Water Amendments (S.B. 76) – $500,000 (one-time) and $390,000 (ongoing)
    • Provides three employees, one for the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Environmental Quality and the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food to coordinate water planning among state and local entities.
  • Groundwater Monitoring and Investigations – $123,300 (one-time) and $330,000 (ongoing)
    • Provides ongoing funding to study groundwater resources and monitoring to provide the state with critical data. 
  • Water Infrastructure Study (S.B. 34) – $200,000
    • Directs the Department of Natural Resources to study the use of property tax revenue to fund water infrastructure, treatment, and delivery, then reports recommendations to the Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environmental Quality and Revenue and Taxation Interim committees.
  • Bear Lake Needs Assessment – $313,900
    • Funds a gap assessment to identify management needs for Bear Lake in order for the state to avoid negative outcomes seen in other bodies of water throughout the state. 

Water Legislation Passed During the 2023 General Session: 

  • S.B. 34 Water Infrastructure Funding Study
  • S.B. 53 Groundwater Use Amendments 
  • S.B. 76 Water Amendments
  • S.B. 92 Special License Plate Designation 
  • S.B. 112 Aquatic Invasive Species Amendments 
  • S.B. 119 Per Capita Consumptive Use 
  • S.B. 144 Water Instream Flow Amendments
  • S.B. 158 Water Exactions Amendments
  • S.B. 118 Water Efficient Landscaping Incentives
  • S.B. 191 Condominium and Community Association Amendments
  • S.B. 236 Legislative Water Development Commission Amendments
  • S.B. 251 Secondary Water Metering Requirements
  • S.B. 277 Water Conservation and Augmentation Amendments
  • H.B. 30 Wildlife Resources Code Recodification 
  • H.B. 31 Wildlife Resources Recodification Cross References 
  • H.B. 33 Water Related Liability Amendments
  • H.B. 150 Emergency Water Shortages Amendments
  • H.B. 207 Compact Commission Amendments
  • H.B. 208 Criminal Trespass Amendments 
  • H.B. 217 School Energy and Water Reductions
  • H.B. 299 Boating Amendments
  • H.B. 307 Utah Water Ways
  • H.B. 326 State Innovation Amendments
  • H.B. 349 Water Reuse Projects Amendments
  • H.B. 371 Working Farm and Ranch Protection Fund
  • H.B. 450 Landscaping Requirements
  • H.B. 488 Utah Lake Authority Amendments
  • H.B. 491 Amendments Related to the Great Salt Lake
  • H.B. 513 Great Salt Lake Amendments
  • H.C.R. 7 Concurrent Resolution Supporting the Creation of the Great Salt Lake Sentinel Landscape

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