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

Integrating water considerations into land planning presents a significant opportunity to reduce Municipal and Industrial water use.

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.

SB 110, passed in 2022, requires most municipalities (Utah Code 10-9a-403) and all counties (Utah Code 17-27a-401) to develop a water use and preservation element that is integrated with their land use planning and development (general plan). The municipal or county legislative body shall adopt and implement this new integrated water and land use element by December 31, 2025. A primer and requirements guide are provided for municipalities and counties.

Additional Integrated Water and Land Use Framework Resource materials can be accessed under the “How” tab below.

Utah Growing Water Smart Workshop

Weber Basin Service Area
May 14-16, 2024
Maverik Stadium, Utah State University
Logan, Utah

The Division of Water Resources is pleased to join with Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, the Utah Office of the Property Rights Ombudsman, the Center for Water-Efficient Landscaping and Utah State Extension (Utah State University), the Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy (Lincoln Institute of Land Policy) and Western Resources Advocates to sponsor this Weber Basin Utah Growing Water Smart workshop.

Utah Growing Water Smart Workshops

Growing Water Smart workshops bring key community staff and decision-makers on water and land use planning together to collaborate to build a more resilient and sustainable water future. Team members commit to one another to actively participate in all sessions of the workshop. These workshops use a range of public engagement, planning, communication and policy implementation tools to help community teams realize their water efficiency, smart growth, watershed health and water resiliency goals.

First Utah Growing Water Smart Workshop Completed

The first Growing Water Smart workshop, held in November 2022, brought together elected officials, county and city leaders and planners, along with water providers from Weber, Davis, Summit, Salt Lake and Utah counties for three days of working sessions.

Five participant teams each created an action plan specific to their community that included water considerations in their planning process. Having completed their action plans, the teams now have access to support resources from the consulting team to implement their action plans.

Northern Utah Growing Water Smart Retreat Workshop Completed

A retreat workshop was held in June 2023 on the Utah State University campus. Seven teams participated in the three-day workshop. Team members represented nineteen communities from urban areas (including Salt Lake City, North Salt Lake and Cottonwood Heights) and rural areas (including West Corinne, Providence, North Logan, and Box Elder and Cache counties). Salt Lake City Public Utilities, Weber Basin Water Conservancy District and Bear River Water Conservancy District also participated.

The seven teams and associated communities developed a plan outline with quarterly goals to integrate water considerations into the land planning efforts as they grow and redevelop property.

To support responsible growth in Utah communities

As we adapt to a changing climate alongside population and economic growth, we must build resiliency into our water demand and planning efforts. This requires adjusting water use habits in ways that provide for responsible growth. Acknowledging Great Salt Lake as a beneficial user is one of the first steps toward responsible growth planning.

There is broad consensus within the water community that optimizing and reducing demand for urban (municipal, commercial, institutional, and industrial) water use is critical to ensuring that Utah’s limited water supply can equitably meet the needs of people, agriculture, business and nature. Integrated water and land planning is the foundation for effective water use policies.

A program to help communities integrate water into planning considerations

Integrating water into land planning at the concept and design stages of development planning creates an opportunity to significantly reduce municipal and industrial (M&I) water use. Too often, land use planning is undertaken independently of water use planning efforts, even though the two can and should inform one another.

Utah Growing Water Smart is one way for communities to begin water and land use planning integration. The Utah Legislature passed SB110, Water as Part of General Plan, during the 2022 session. SB110 enacts Utah Code 73-10-36 and modifies the Municipal Land Use, Development and Management Act and the County Land Use, Development and Management Act to require a municipal or county general plan provide for the efficient and economical use, conservation and production of the supply of water. While some communities have begun such an effort, there are many opportunities to improve water efficiencies, reduce M&I water use 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 and reduce M&I water use have been advocated in the following reports:

Start including water considerations at the beginning of the planning process

Following on the footsteps of the Great Salt Lake HCR10 Steering Group Recommendations, the Utah legislature allocated funding beginning July 1, 2022 to assist municipalities and counties in their efforts to incorporate water into their land planning processes.

Phase 1 – Integrated Water and Land Use Planning Framework

Phase 1 was funded through the Great Salt Lake Advisory Council in 2021. During Phase 1, The Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy and Western Resource Advocates developed a framework for Integrated Water and Land Use Planning. The Framework for Community Action 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 resources–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 below, or as one complete pdf here.

A Phase 1 progress update was presented to the Utah Water Task Force at the November 2021 meeting.

Workshop Guidebooks

Guidebooks and materials from completed workshops are available as resources for integrating water into land planning processes. The November 2022 Growing Water Smart Workshop Guidebook and the June 2023 Growing Water Smart Workshop Guidebook provide resources to bring water resource management and land use planning into alignment, allowing Utah communities to shift to implementing integrated water and land use planning.

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 and materials developed in Phase 1, Phase 2 focuses on collaborative approaches guided by facilitators in a workshop setting. Example cases that demonstrate successful programs are presented.

Planners, water managers, developers, locally elected officials and other key stakeholders are brought together to examine the results of their community self-assessment. Small group discussion sessions are used to develop their ideas into practices for integrating water planning with land use and economic planning processes. Opportunities for collaboration across stakeholder groups occur during the three-day workshop 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.

QUESTIONS? Contact WaterAndLand@utah.gov