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Bill streamlines how much water new housing projects get in Utah, By Amy Joi O’Donoghue,

February 19, 2023 by Nicole Mason

By Amy Joi O’Donoghue, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Flexibility in the water requirements for new and various types of housing developments in Utah are being addressed in a measure that passed unanimously Thursday in the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee.

SB158 by Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, has the endorsement of the Utah League of Cities and Towns, as well as the Utah Homebuilders Association, after certain compromises were worked out.

The bill simply addresses inconsistencies in how the “exaction” of water has been applied across the state, said Tage Flint, who worked 35 years in public water supply and most recently retired after 21 years as the general manager of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District serving northern Utah.

Exaction of water applies to the allocation of water for culinary purposes in new development.

How it works: Cities, counties and districts that provide culinary water for new subdivisions — be it high-density, multi-housing units or single-family homes — take historical flow data and can make adjustments, according to Flint, while still keeping in line with state drinking water requirements for culinary supplies.

He pointed out that retail water providers may have become so efficient at saving water through conservation programs, their demand for culinary water may be much less.

Rob Jolley, representing cities, developers and water districts, said the bill grants flexibility while not being an unworkable mandate.

“The objective all along has been to acknowledge that there are multifamily units with less water that is needed than what may be required on a home on a third acre or a half acre. And so that’s the objective,” Jolley said. “So, the bill will allow and require cities to distinguish between unit sizes and do their exactions accordingly, but then also to publish what that methodology was so that the landowner or the developer can know how they got to those exaction requirements.”


Drinking water availability, drought and development


Justin Lee, director of government relations for the Utah League of Cities and Towns, said the substitute measure adopted by the committee leaves communities in a “much better place … It allows cities to make their calculations but also show their homework and help us to get to a good place.”

Flint said the measure does not force communities to remain with the same amount of exaction of water given conservation accomplishments that reduce what they need — so it does help with drought.

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