The 2016 General Session of the 61st Utah State Legislature concluded on March 10, 2016. This year’s legislative session produced a number of Utah water law bills, some of which passed and others that did not. The following represents a list of those Utah water law bills that were passed into law during the legislative session, as well as a shorter list of those Utah water law bills that did not pass. In all, the Utah State Legislature considered 19 water law related bills or resolutions during the 2016 legislative session. Of those 19, the Utah Legislature passed 10 water law bills or resolutions into law.
Utah Water Law Bills/Resolutions That Passed:
House Bill 222 “states that approval of one or more nonuse applications, or successive overlapping nonuse applications, does not protect a water right that is already subject to forfeiture, nor does the approval of one or more nonuse applications constitute beneficial use of the water for purposes of calculating the 15-year period in Subsection (2)(c)(i).” Thus, under the newly passed amendments, neither an approved nonuse application, nor successive overlapping nonuse applications, protect a water right that is already subject to a forfeiture. Furthermore, the approval of one or more nonuse applications does not constitute beneficial use.
- H.B. 305 – Water Rights and Resources Amendments (2nd Substitute)
House Bill 305 was introduced in order toe “deal[ ] with the accuracy of water use data. HB 305 “instructs the Drinking Water Board to require certified water operator of a public water supplier, or professional engineer performing the duties of an operator, to verify the accuracy of water use and supply data submitted to the Utah Division of Drinking Water.” HB 305 further “authorizes the Utah Division of Water Rights to collect and validate water use data,” and to “make[ ] [other] technical changes.”
- H.B. 464 – Wildfire on Public Lands and Watersheds (3rd Substitute)
House Bill 464 “requires the Conservation Commission within the Department of Agriculture and Food to work with Utah State University and certain conservation districts to: complete a study and economic analysis of certain issues regarding wildfires on public lands within Utah, including the impact of wildfires on the state’s watershed and air quality; and report to the Legislature’s Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands; and allows the Conservation Commission to contract with another state agency or private entity to complete the required study and economic analysis.study the environmental and economic impacts of wildfires on Utah public lands.” In order to accomplish the requirements set forth by the HB 464, the Legislature “appropirate[d] in fiscal year 2016: to the Department of Argiculture and Food as a one-time appropriation, from the General Fund, one-time $200,000.”
Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed House Concurrent Resolution 1 on March 1, 2016. HCR 1 expresses the Governor’s and Legislature’s “support to Attorney General Sean Reyes in seeking to vacate a federal defining ‘waters of the United States.” Specifically, HCR 1 “expresses disapproval of the expansion of the term ‘waters of the United States’ to include ephemeral drainages, dry washes, gullies, coulees, and arroyos, which only move after rain; and expresses support for Attorney General Sean Reyes in seeking to vacate this expansive rule.”
- H.J.R. 4 – Water Infrastructure (1st Substitute)
House Joint Resolution 4 “urges Utah’s congressional delegation to support the efforts of Utah water users organizations to secure title transfer of project works and project water rights free from terms and conditions that were not contemplated at the time of the repayment contracts.” HJR 4 “calls upon Utah’s congressional delegation to support Utah water users organizations that have repaid, or wish to repay, reclamation projects to secure title transfer of project works and project water rights free from terms and conditions that were not contemplated at the time of the repayment contracts.”
- S.B. 23 – Protected Purchaser Amendments (2nd Substitute)
Senate Bill 23 “modifies the definition of a ‘protected purchaser.'” The modified definition of protected purchaser “means a purchaser of a certified or uncertified security, or of an interest in the security, who: gives value; does not have notice of an adverse claim to the security; obtains control of the security; and for a share a share of stock issued by a land company or a water company: pays, or whose predecessors in interest paid, an assessment levied against the share of stock for at least four of the immediate past seven years by the land company or the water company; or has used, or whose predecessors in interest have used, either directly or indirectly the water available under the share of stock issued by a water company for at least four of the immediate past seven years.” Beyond “acquiring the rights of a purchaser, a protected purchaser acquires the purchaser’s interest in the certificated or uncertificated security, share of stock in a land company, or share of stock in a water company free of any adverse claim.”
Senate Bill 28 “requires retail water providers to establish an increasing rate structure for culinary water,” and to “provide certain information to customers.” According to SB 25, “A retail water provider … shall: establish a culinary water structure that; incorporates increasing block units of water used; and provides for an increase in the rate change for additional block units of water used as usage increases from one block to the next[.]” Additionally, SB 28 requires that a retail water provider “provide in the customer billing notices, or in a notice that is distributed to customers at least annually, block unit rates and the customer’s billing cycle; and include individual customer water usage in customer billing notices.”
Senate Bill 75 “modifies the procedure for adjudicating water rights.” Specifically, SB 75: “requires the state engineer to identify all possible claimants in a particular area during an adjudication, if the state engineer’s records are incomplete; modifies the procedure following the commencement of an action by the state engineer; states that the failure of a potential party to file a timely statement of claim constitutes a default against that party; requires the state engineer to authorize one extension to those seeking to file a statement of claim; requires the state engineer, after a full consideration of claims and an examination of the river system or water source involved, to: complete a hydrographic survey map; prepare a proposed determination of all rights to the use of the water and file it with the district court; serve notice by publication and by mail; and hold a public meeting; and makes technical changes.”
Senate Bill 80 “modifies provisions relating to infrastructure funding” to appropriate revenue from the Transportation Investment Fund to the Water Infrastructure Restricted Fund through 2012. for FY 2017-18, the revenue will be split 80-20 between the Transportation Investment Fund and the Water Infrastructure Restricted Fund. However, by 2012, the revenue will be entirely appropriated to the Water Infrastructure Restricted Fund.
The bill was introduced by Senator Stuart Adams, and was sponsored by Representative Lee B. Perry. The bill passed the Senate by a 19-10 vote, and passed the House by a vote of 48-26, with the House adding an amendment to the Senate bill. The senate passed the House amendments by a vote of 18-8.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 1 “encourages public water suppliers to implement universal metering.” The resolution: “notes that, as the second most arid state in the country, Utah needs to conserve water; states when citizens know how much water they are using, they tend to voluntarily conserve that water; and encourages public water suppliers to implement metering on all retail public and private water systems.”
The resolution was introduced by Senator Scott K. Jenkins, and was sponsored by Representative Lee B. Perry. The resolution passed through the Senate by a 28-0 vote, and passed the House by a vote of 59-3.
Utah Water Law Bills/Resolutions That Failed:
- H.B. 82 – Property Taxing Authority for Public Water
- H.B. 257 – Water Funding Revisions
- H.B. 283 – Public Utility Easement Amendments
- H.B. 309 – Sales and Use Tax Earmark Amendments
- H.B. 326 – Special and Local District Transparency Amendments
- H.B. 432 – Governmental Nonprofit Entity Compliance Amendments
- H.B. 457 – Water Quality Revisions
- H.B. 218 – Utah Revised Nonprofit Corporation Act
- S.B. 116 – Water Law – Nonprofit Corporation Amendments
* Photo Cred.: allianceforwaterefficiency.org