The Integration of Water and Land Planning

Advancing the Integration of Water and Land Planning Activities of Municipalities and Counties Across the State of Utah

A significant opportunity to reduce Municipal and Industrial water consumption lies with integrating water considerations into land planning.

Too often, land use planning is undertaken independently of water use and planning efforts, even though the two can and should inform one another.

Integrating these two processes from the beginning of any development proposal is cost-effective, whereas retrofitting existing development for water efficiency is expensive.

Integrated Water and Land Use Framework Resource materials can be accessed under the “How” tab below. If your community is interested in participating in a facilitated workshop, please see the “Contact” tab.

To support responsible growth in Utah communities

Utah, one of the most arid states in the country and also one of the fastest growing, has limited water resources to share among its many users.

The fragility of a secure water supply is evident today. During July 2021, the U.S. Drought Monitor shows more than 95% of the state in either the “Exceptional Drought” (most severe) category or “Extreme Drought” (second most severe) category. While these conditions represent just a snapshot in time, Utah and other western states are experiencing long-term and persistent drought conditions.

As we face a changing climate, coupled with population and economic growth, building resiliency into our water demand and planning efforts requires taking steps now to adjust water use habits in ways that provide for responsible growth.

There is broad consensus that optimizing and reducing demand for urban use (called M&I use which stands for municipal, commercial, institutional and industrial uses) is critical to ensuring that Utah’s limited water supply can equitably meet the needs of people, agriculture, business, and nature.

To help communities integrate water into planning considerations

A significant opportunity to reduce Municipal and Industrial water consumption is by integrating water into land planning at the concept and design stages. Too often, land use planning is undertaken independently of water use planning efforts, even though the two can and should inform one another.

Incorporating water planning into high-level planning documents, such as master plans, is a primary method for communities to begin water and land use planning integration. While some communities have begun such an effort, there are many opportunities to improve water efficiencies, reduce Municipal and Industrial water consumption, and advance coordinated water and land use planning even beyond the general or master plan.

Strengthening the nexus of land use and water planning and advancing efforts to optimize Municipal and Industrial water use or reduce Municipal and Industrial water consumption in Utah have been encouraged or advocated for by notable key stakeholder processes, authorities, and studies including, but not limited to the:

By including water considerations early in the planning process

Following on the footsteps of the Great Salt Lake HCR10 Steering Group Recommendations, the Utah legislature allocated funding beginning in FY 22 to assist municipalities and counties to kick-start or expand their efforts to incorporate water with other land planning processes. The Great Salt Lake Advisory Council provided funding in FY21 to advance Phase 1 of the effort.

Phase 1 – Integrated Water and Land Use Planning Framework:

As part of Phase 1, The Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy and Western Resource Advocates were engaged to develop a framework for Integrated Water and Land Use Planning. The Framework for Community Action (see below) illustrates the many ways communities can better integrate water and land use planning. It includes four stages and resources to aid in implementation. Two additional components–a Stakeholder Checklist and the Community Self-Assessment–provide tangible guidance for communities to form a team for integrating water and land use and to track their progress on integration activities.

The materials for the Framework for Community Action can be found here:

You can access each document separately above, or as one complete pdf here.

Phase 2 – Collaborative Implementation

Phase 2 of the Integrating Water and Land Planning Project builds upon the work completed in Phase 1. Using the Utah “Integrated Water and Land Use Planning Assessment Framework” materials developed in Phase 1, Phase 2 will focus on collaborative approaches and practical application efforts, demonstrated in pilot cases, by municipalities, counties and stakeholders.

The intent of Phase 2 is to utilize a collaborative approach to bring planners, water managers, developers, locally elected officials, and other key stakeholders together to examine the results of their community self-assessment and creatively develop solutions and ideas to integrate water planning with land use and economic planning processes. Opportunities for collaboration across stakeholder groups will occur in a series of workshops in Phase 2.

Opportunities for communities to participate in workshops

If your municipality or county is interested in learning more, or participating in a facilitated workshop to find ways to better integrate water considerations into planning processes, please contact the Division of Water Resources at: waterandland@utah.gov.