2021 Water Resources Plan Q & A

The Division of Water Resources hosted a virtual open house on October 20, 2021 to allow the public to learn more about the Water Resources Plan and ask questions. All questions from this open house can be found below.

Panel members were able to respond to seventeen questions before close of the meeting. In some cases, additional information has been included to complete the response.

Questions or topics not applicable to the Utah Division of Water Resources were sent to the appropriate oversight agency for a response or to help complete responses. In these cases, the agency has been indicated with their corresponding answers.

If you have further questions, please send an email to water@utah.gov.


The Plan and Governor Cox both recommend expansion of the “Flip your Strip” program statewide. Who is responsible for the success or failure of "Flip your Strip"? Will municipalities be held accountable for the success or failure of "Flip your Strip" in their jurisdictions?

ANSWER [Utah Division of Water Resources]:

There are a lot of efforts that are currently ongoing through Utah Water Savers to make sure that the Flip Your Strip program is a success. The entity providing the rebate along with the program participants will be responsible for the success or failure of "Flip Your Strip". Flip Your Strip is currently being offered by three water districts within the state. These rebate applications and program information are housed on UtahWaterSavers.com. All the water districts follow similar guidelines for design requirements, program participation, and rebate amounts. This has streamlined the process.

We plan to work together with municipalities to ensure program success by eliminating barriers to homeowners and making sure planning efforts for new developments are in line with using water more wisely in outdoor landscapes.

More information about water conservation programs is available on the Division of Water Resources  conservation website at: https://conservewater.utah.gov.


Can the Division make its research regarding water use among states public? USGS's research finds that Utah uses more water than most of the nation, at times falling behind Idaho, which does not align with what the Division has stated.

ANSWER [Utah Division of Water Resources]:

We have done some research on this. There is other research ongoing in with conjunction with some of the larger water districts and the consultant they have hired. We will make that research available when it’s completed.

Ms. Anny Baynard, the municipal and industrial (M&I) water use expert at the Division of Water Resources, can provide more details about Utah's water use reporting and on-going efforts.


Hello! You referenced HCR-10, a resolution that has no funding support or binding action, but you didn't say how you plan to maintain GSL levels and ensure water continues to flow into the GSL. What is the DNR going to do for GSL?

ANSWER [Utah Division of Water Resources]:

The HCR (House Concurrent Resolution) 10, as you mentioned, has no funding support, or binding action. There is a tremendous effort by a variety of stakeholders that are working to address how to get more water to Great Salt Lake. There is not one silver bullet to solve the issue. There are a lot of efforts ongoing. There’s currently water banking that are contracts that are looking at changing water and we are in discussions with the legislature on potential additional resources to get more actual funding to that. They also funded a Great Salt Lake water coordinator right now that is helping to spearhead those efforts.


You had some data on statewide per capita residential water use - do you have this information broken down by regions or counties? Is this data publicly available?

ANSWER [Utah Division of Water Resources]:

This data is available and it’s on the Water Open Data site that Candice mentioned in her presentation. Utah's Open Water Data site is hosted by the Technical Services section. For more information about data posted on the site, contact the section manager, Mr. Aaron Austin. Ms. Anny Baynard, the municipal and industrial (M&I) water use expert at the Division of Water Resources, can provide more details about Utah's water use reporting and on-going efforts.


If Utah’s water measuring system gives us the unfair reputation of being water wasters but you’re able to do an internal analysis to compare our use numbers to other states, why not change our system so comparisons are easier and/or at least share the results and methods of the internal analysis?

ANSWER [Utah Division of Water Resources]:

What Utah does with our water use numbers is very comprehensive and is more detailed and breaks down water use in categories other states and other regions don’t do. We’re proud of the way we analyze water use in the state. It makes it hard, in some cases, to compare apples-to-apples with other states. That’s one reason why we’re doing a study in conjunction with the large districts and that study will be shared with the public as soon as it is completed. We think we do a good job looking at water use in the state. If other states did it the same way we did, we would look fairly comparable. The data will verify that in these studies that we’re doing. Stay tuned for that.

Ms. Anny Baynard, the municipal and industrial (M&I) water use expert for the Division of Water Resources, can provide more details about Utah's water use reporting and on-going efforts.


How can the Division reconcile their priorities of finding ways to get more water into the GSL while still actively pursuing Bear River Development through acquiring right of ways?

ANSWER [Utah Division of Water Resources]:

It can be confusing because it seems like we’re going about two different things separately. As part of the mission of the Division: to plan, conserve, protect, and develop Utah’s resources, it takes multi-faceted tools. It takes all the tools in the toolbox. Some of the tools don’t always need to be used. I’ve got a mallet. I don’t use it a whole lot, but the other day I needed it. There’s different tools, some are used more often. Some are things that you’ve got there in the toolbox but you’re still not using.

We’re aware of the Great Salt Lake and collaborating and working with other sister agencies regarding Great Salt Lake. The data is showing and we’ve worked with four water conservancy districts who will eventually supply the water to users. It’s important to know that we’re working with them actively to keep track of the projections. Again, the projections are based on water, population growth, how much use we’re using, and a lot of things that Candice discussed in her presentation. It’s a moving target, so often, especially when you’re looking out decades. There was even changes in population growth and there was discussion of how it slowed down when we had the recession about 10 years ago. Now it’s picking back up again. It’s a moving target. That being said, we are still seeing that need.

In 1991 we expected the beginning of the initial need for water through Bear River Development for 2015, which was six years ago. Over the years, that’s changed. When I started working on this 15 years ago, we were thinking 2030, or 2035. We are now looking at 2050 or beyond, so 35 years pushed out because of so many of the efforts being done in secondary metering and water conservation and some other smaller projects. That being said, a project this size takes upwards of two decades of environmental impacts and going through the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) processes of designing and then of actually constructing before you have a first drop of water.

With that in mind, knowing that there is a large diameter pipeline that needs up to 100 feet of right-of-way to construct and maintain, we are trying to maintain a strip, particularly right now through Box Elder County, through very tight areas where development is already happening. Our desire is to maintain a corridor ahead of time so, in the future, when it comes to the point where we need this pipeline and we need the corridor, we’re not taking out houses; we’re not disrupting communities. We’re working actively now to try to preserve that [corridor] to help reduce the impacts and reduce the costs in the future.


Thank you Candice. The plan is rich and a great opportunity for all of us to provide thoughtful input in our comments. In Chapter 8 under Water Law and the responsibility of the State Engineer I'm not seeing any mention about consideration of the public welfare in making water decisions. Why not?


[Utah Division of Water Resources]:This plan focuses on what the Division of Water Resources can do as far as actions, goals and recommendations, so we don’t delve into what the state engineer and other agencies can do.

[Utah Division of Water Rights]: In the plan is a brief summary of what water right law is for the state of Utah. It can include everything. It’s a very robust law system that we have that governs water rights in this state. Chapter 73 of Utah Code delves into a lot more detail. In [Utah Code], one of the criteria for application approval is public welfare. Every decision that the State Engineer makes does consider public welfare.


Is there any peer reviewed research that shows Bear River Development will only lower the Great Salt Lake by 8.5 inches?

ANSWER [Utah Division of Water Resources]:

A white paper was done several years ago. We worked with several entities, stakeholders, Utah State University, and Westminster on this. What we’re seeing is at full development of Bear River Development, 220,000 acre feet, there’s going to be return flow. It will return in different locations than where it’s going at this time. Looking at current use, current flows, and talking about you flushing the toilet and [that water] goes back into the system. Looking at that, we’re seeing less than 100,000 acre feet of depletion from the system. A lot [of water] is going back to the lake, albeit in different locations. The modeling we’ve done has shown that it could be as much as 14 inches; it could be lower. It all depends on the level of the lake at the time. Of course, this average 8 ½ inches is in the white paper and is on our website. It’s mentioned in the 2019 Bear River Development feasibility study. There were two other studies that were done and they’re mentioned in the report where and I believe one is a Great Salt Lake management plan by the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, that discusses a depletion of 100,000 acre feet would reduce Great Salt Lake by a foot (about 12 inches). There’s a couple of different documents. When we came in and did our work, we saw that 8 ½ inches was comparable.

Follow up response: Since, as Marisa mentioned, we are pretty far out in this process, this will have to go through and complete EIS (Environmental Impact Study) and NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process. There will be a significant amount of additional modeling that will take place to determine the impacts on Great Salt Lake.



In Chapter 9/Watersheds, the Graphic 9-2 regarding Impaired waterbodies, GSL is depicted as having no evidence of impairment (p. 126). I'm not sure it should be included in this context as its a saline Lake that has narrative standards and not your typical WQ standards. Maybe not noted.


[Utah Division of Water Resources]: Water standards are determined and regulated by the Utah Division of Water Quality (DWQ). This question was forwarded to DWQ.

[Utah Division of Water Quality]: This graphic reflects the results of Utah DWQ's 2020 Integrated Report which evaluates whether a waterbody is meeting water quality standards and supporting it's protected uses. Water quality in Gilbert Bay of Great Salt Lake is protected for, "frequent primary and secondary contact recreation, waterfowl, shore birds and other water-oriented wildlife including their necessary food chain," (UAC R317-2-6.1). Gilbert Bay was classified as, "No Evidence of Impairment," because it is currently meeting the one applicable numeric criterion for selenium in bird eggs and no additional evidence exists to suggest that water quality is inadequate to support its beneficial uses under the narrative standard. The other three bays of Great Salt Lake, Bear River, Farmington, and Gunnison, were all categorized as, "Insufficient Data," due to a lack of numeric criteria for those waterbodies. Note that this analysis is strictly an evaluation of existing water quality and does not evaluate water volume, areal extent of wildlife habitat, or long term trends in water supply for Great Salt Lake. Additional comments regarding methods and results of water quality assessments can be addressed to Utah DWQ's Integrated Report program at https://deq.utah.gov/water-quality/utahs-integrated-report.


I am a Washington County resident, is my interpretation of your graph correct, that even in your third "best case" scenario plan, our county will not have a sustainable amount of water in the next 5-10 years?

ANSWER [Utah Division of Water Resources]:

The graph that’s shown in the report uses data from 2015 as far as the available supply. We know that since then we’ve seen changes of additional local projects coming on to develop some additional water within the Kanab-Virgin River basin. The graph doesn’t take into account conservation advances that we’ve seen and plan to continue to see that will help extend that supply somewhat further. We do anticipate having additional supply. We’re in 2021, so, probably 10 years could be reasonable. Looking beyond that is when it really starts to show a need for additional water. The best answer is: that graph doesn’t accurately represent the things that have changed within the last seven years.


Since the scope of waters covered in the plan include a variety of sovereign lands, perhaps we should include mention of the Public Trust Resources that they are.

ANSWER [Utah Division of Water Resources]:

I can mention that there are several water bodies that are considered sovereign lands; the lake bed of Utah Lake, Great Salt Lake, Bear Lake, and other water bodies. Part of what that’s talking about in the Public Trust Doctrine associated with those lands.

The Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands (FFSL) oversees the Sovereign Lands program. This question has been forwarded to FFSL for additional response information.

A response from FFSL will be posted when it becomes available.


What data are you using for your climate change modeling?

ANSWER [Utah Division of Water Resources]:

There are several studies out there. One is the Bureau of Reclamation study on the Colorado River which estimates that the flow of the river will decline about 9% over the next 50 - 60 years. There’s a study that the Weber River Basin Water Conservancy District conducted to assess the vulnerability of their supplies to climate change. They estimated roughly a 9% average decline in their water supply into the future 50 years out.

We also have an internal study that one our employees conducted in conjunction with a professor at the University of Utah on climate change. They looked at several studies of different river basins around the west and around 9% - 10% decline was projected in those areas.

We felt pretty comfortable showing or of predicting that about 10% decline on our water supplies would be roughly where the various studies that we’ve seen is how that would impact our water supply.

We looked at how increasing temperatures and variance in precipitation might impact water demand. In particular, on residential landscapes. When we incorporate that, we estimate that to be about a 10% increase in transpiration would occur. We’ve include change impacts on the on the supply as well as the demand of the equation. There are references in the report to those studies that I mentioned or we can get those references.

Mr. Krishna Khatri is the climate change expert for the Division of Water Resources.


Thank you to all your hard work on the state water plan. With all the new construction happening statewide, what is being done to eliminate the installation of grass and high water use plants? A lot of local zoning ordinances require the use of sod. Are there plans in the works to change this? Thx!

ANSWER [Utah Division of Water Resources]:

There has been a tremendous effort this last year to integrate land use and water planning together. The Division of Water Resources was appropriated $270,000 in the last legislative session to help do just that. We were also able to leverage $30,000 from the Great Salt Lake Advisory Council for phase 1 of this project. On our website, you can look at the Integrating land use and water planning page. You can find the initial documents that came out of that phase 1. That includes Utah specific framework, self-assessment, a stakeholder checklist. This is really trying to get communities together.

Phase 2 is actually working to bring those communities together. To have workshops and we’re working on getting the consultant hired to do those workshops and to bring those different system. There are additional efforts through the Utah League of Cities and Towns, Prepare 60 to integrate land use water planning even more because we definitely recognize how we grow matters, to your point. (https://water.utah.gov/integrated-water-land-planning/)


When will the NEPA process for Bear River Development begin?

ANSWER [Utah Division of Water Resources]:

Ten or 15 years ago we thought the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process was around the corner. Because of all the great efforts of the water districts pushing out the need for Bear River Development, it pushes out the NEPA process and the beginning of the NEPA for process. We’ve had some high level discussions with the Army Corps of Engineer thinking they would be lead agency at some point in the future. We are seeing again, you can look in the 2019 feasibility study for Bear River Development or you can look at the executive summary which is a lot less pages and easier to find it, talks about that process.

If you go to water.utah.gov, go to the projects tab, and go down to the Bear River Development, there’s reports that you can click on. If we go backwards, let’s say the need is in 2050 and we start thinking, “Ok, We got about five years of construction and several years prior to that with design and then anywhere from 7 to 10 years for the NEPA process for the environmental impact statement, that adds up to somewhere around 20 years process before we can get the first drop of water. That’s nine year from now.

It continues to move out. We are happy for that to be. The 2019 report indicated 2045 to 2050 the water districts are now looking at 2050 and beyond. It will be about a 20 years process before we can get the first drop of water.


Utah seems like it's not actually charging water users the true cost of providing water. I've seen among some reports that Utah has some of the lowest costs to users in the entire US West. Can we increase the cost to literally shock heavy users in reducing usage, especially in watering green lawns?

ANSWER [Utah Division of Water Resources]:

We’ve written a report on that topic that delves into some of the reasons why Utah’s water costs are lower than elsewhere. Some of the reasons include: much of the population is located at the base of mountain ranges that have nice clean, pristine water and groundwater springs that come right down and are gravity fed into those systems. The cheap cost of Utah’s water is partially because of that: It doesn’t have to be pump up into to storage tanks and reservoirs where it can go back into our system and pressurized our system. It is naturally pressurized through gravity.

We don’t have to treat a lot of our water extensively to make it meet certain standards makes water cheaper in Utah than in other places.

The report on our website (https://water.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/The-Cost-of-Water-in-Utah_2010.pdf) has more information about some of those reasons.


Why is rainwater collection limed to 2500 gallons of storage in Utah? some surrounding arid states offer fewer storage restrictions- isn't slow landscape discharge more beneficial to water basin systems than high volume short duration storm events (e.g. summer monsoon rains)?

ANSWER [Utah Division of Water Rights]:

The below ground storage limit of 2,500 gallons: What’s the actual reason behind that number? I’m not 100% sure. It seems like it was a feasible storage tank that someone could bury below ground on their own property. The main issue with rainwater collection is that all water that falls in the state has already been claimed by some appropriator. The rainwater that would fall on a roof, would go into a gutter system, would go into the sewer system, and then into a canal or into a river which someone is reliant upon for their already approved use. Why they want to limit it to a lower amount (2,500 gallons) is to ensure that somebody’s water right isn’t being impaired by rainwater harvesting that is occurring upstream from a historic diversion.

We’ve had projects that stored larger amounts of rainwater. It’s a matter of finding a willing party that owns a water right that you could utilize to store a larger amount than 2,500 gallons. There is limitations on a residential lot, but I think we’re willing to work with people if they want to do a large scale rainwater harvesting project to help them out. It’s a matter of finding a willing participant with an existing water right.

Additional questions not answered during the Open House

A decision was made by Rachel Shilton, manager of the River Basin Planning section, before the beginning of the Virtual Open House began to only respond to questions on the 2021 Water Resources Plan. The decision was made to keep focus of the Virtual Open House on the 2021 Water Resources Plan. Division of Water Resources management supports her decision.


What tools specifically are you referencing and why do you need both of those tools at this time?? There are other tools that could do what Bear River Development is doing, provide water to growing municipalities, without costing tax payers $3 Billion.

ANSWER [Utah Division of Water Resources]:

Current projections (water use, water supply, population) still show a need for water from the Bear River Development - starting by 2050 or later. Planning and preparing for population growth is multi-faceted. The Division of Water Resources works with Water Districts, Municipalities, Irrigation Companies, Secondary Water Systems, Towns and Cities using many "tools" to prepare for ongoing growth. Because of these "tools", the projected need for the first of the water from the Bear River Development has been delayed 35 years. From a projected need of 2015 in 1991, to the current projection of 2050 or later.

Since 1947, the Board of Water Resources has provided more than $850 million of funding to construct about 1,600 projects, which have a combined total project value of over $2.3 billion. These project include water efficiency projects - pressurized agricultural irrigation systems, secondary water meters, upgraded piping from older systems that can leak extensively

Other "tools" include:
Our Water Conservation Section providing education, outreach, and partnerships for water conservation programs https://conservewater.utah.gov/

Rebates for Smart Controllers (sprinkler systems) and low-flow toilets

Weekly Lawn Watering guide (posted on website and social media)


The Division of Water Resources contributed funding to the Division of Water Rights for adjudication efforts: "General Water Rights Adjudications are a critical piece of the statewide program to create and maintain a complete record of water rights. The water rights adjudication process helps to bring order and certainty to the water rights record throughout the state by defining existing rights, quantifying unknown rights, and removing unused and abandoned rights from the record through judicial decree."

Since 1973, the Division funded Cloud Seeding to enhance the water supply

The Division funding three pilot projects for Water Banking


Regional Water Conservation Goals

Comprehensive water data: Utah is the only state that has a state-wide program to collect all M&I water data. All types of M&I water are accounted for - residential, commercial, industrial, institutional (schools, city-owned fields, school fields, churches), secondary irrigation systems. The Division also collects and estimates agricultural water use. In other states, cities or counties collect and report their water data. No other state does this state-wide.

Many cities don't "count" all of the water use: for example, some cities don't estimate their secondary water use. Some cities only count water use for single-family residences, not multi-family residential use.

Secondary metering funding and grants: Secondary irrigation systems (i.e. lawn and garden) have not been able to be metered until the last several years - with reliable meters that can sustain metering untreated water. Weber Basin Water Conservancy District (WBWCD) has seen a 30-40% reduction in use just by installing secondary meters and educating their customers. This has been critical to pushing out the need for the BRD. The Division oversees funding for secondary metering- Low-interest loans as meter can cost millions of dollars. Typically, one residential connection costs between 1,200-1,500 to provide and install one meter. Some systems have thousands of residential connections to meter. Legislature approved $2,000,000/annually in ongoing funding for secondary grants 50/50 for cost share match for grant. The first project - Lindon City - received approval of their grant this week - total cost estimated to be about $2.8M for meter their residential connections. Utah is receiving $100,000,000 in ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds from the Federal Government for water projects. $50M of this is going to installation of secondary meters 75/25 percent cost share match for grant. The Division of Water Resources will be overseeing the ARPA grant funds.

More information about Bear River Development (BRD) can be obtained online from the Division of Water Resources website at: https://water.utah.gov/bear-river-dev/. You may also contact Ms. Marisa Egbert, the Water Resources lead engineer for BRD.


You didn’t answer the question about your projections of CR flows. If there’s only 12-13 mafy, then, after the Lower Basin’s 7.5 mafy and Mexico’s 1.5 mafy, leaving 3-4 mafy for Upper Basin. Utah’s 23% is 0.69-0.92 mafy. Existing water rights are already >1.4 mafy. So, how is there 82K for LPP?


Colorado River issues are administered by the newly formed Utah Colorado River Authority Amy Haas, Executive Director of the Utah Colorado River Authority, provided the following response:

Under the 1948 Upper Colorado River Basin Compact, the state of Utah is allocated 23% of the supply of the Colorado River available for consumption by the Upper Basin. Because hydrology is variable, the amount of available water fluctuates annually.

The recent natural flows of the Colorado River have been greatly impacted by the 21-year drought of record, exacerbated by the impacts of climate change. Therefore, all water development in the Colorado River basin carries a degree of risk due to uncertain hydrology. In the event of any shortage of supply, the Utah State Engineer will administer such a shortfall in accordance with law.

Agricultural programs are administered by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF).


How does the department consider the fact that we're exporting our precious water resources abroad via alfalfa? Shouldn't we prioritize water that serves a majority of Utahns?

ANSWER [Utah Department of Agriculture and Food]:

There are some misconceptions that exist here in the state among the general public that are not necessarily factual. I am not familiar with the source of this false information, but my assumption is that much of it is agenda driven. While some of the hay grown in Utah is exported overseas, the majority of what is grown here stays in our state or is sold to neighboring states to feed livestock and other animals that help sustain our food and fiber supply chains. While we as consumers may not see a direct state benefit to this hay that is grown, it is an integral part of our national and state security, and contributes substantially to our local economies. As to those farmers who sell their hay to customers overseas, the State does not control the markets that producers have access to for marketing their products. It is not the role of the government to dictate where a business can sell their products.

The Division of Water Resources appreciated the questions and participation from the public. Thank you for taking time to read the 2021 Water Resources Plan (Plan) and ask questions. Official comments on the Plan should be submitted using the Public Comment form. The public comment period ends Monday, November 15, 2021.