Governor begins work on 50 year water vision for Utah

PROVO, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – Utah is the third fastest growing state in the country and the second driest, a combination that is placing a burden on our water supply.
PROVO, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – Utah is the third fastest growing state in the country and the second driest, a combination that is placing a burden on our water supply.

"If we don't anticipate and plan for the future we will have significant shortages which will stress our system. Not only our ecosystem, but our society," said Governor Gary Herbert, (R) Utah.

That's the premise of his 50 year water vision for Utah.

Leading the charge is a six person team the Governor unveiled Wednesday, at the 2013 Water Summit.

"As we all work together to find ways to conserve the use of water, to make sure we're good stewards of the earth," said Herbert.

The Governor laid out four principals to help meet his goal of 25% reduction by 2025.

They are; conservation, maintenance, planning and innovation.

Part of the vision also includes public input.

Zach Frankel, with Utah Rivers Council was at most of the eight listening sessions across the state.

"We think what's more likely is resident's will be indebted with billions of dollars in unnecessary government spending for water projects that no one needs," said Frankel.

Projects like the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline, which would channel water to Washington County.

Frankel says the entire state could pay the price, but the Governor says if Washington County can't afford it, they shouldn't build it.

"I believe that the user pays, so whoever utilizes the water out of a Lake Powell Pipeline project should pay for the cost of it," said Herbert.

The Governor believes that needs to be looked at in a broader sense as well, because nearly all water use in the state is being subsidized by property taxes in some way.

"We're not paying the true, full cost of water, consequently we are more prone to waste water," said Herbert.

Frankel believes the answer is for water suppliers to operate like other utility providers.

"We don't use property tax to pay for natural gas, electricity or telephone service. We need to not do it for water too. We need to pay for the full cost of water in the rate," said Frankel.

One of many issues to debate as the plan is put together.

The Water Plan Advisory Team will continue to collect public input and analyze the options, before making a series of recommendations.

They hope to do that by the end of next year.

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