Event Title

Water in Utah: Institutional, Economic, and Political Options for Reform

Presenter Information

Devin Stein

Location

Logan Country Club

Streaming Media

Start Date

3-28-2017 1:55 PM

End Date

3-28-2017 2:00 PM

Description

Utah is one of the driest states in the country and also has one of the highest domestic per capita rates of water consumption. The Utah Department of Water Resources has projected that by 2050 the state’s demand for water will overtake the available supply of water. Dire predictions like this have been used to justify the building of large, expensive water projects. This paper argues that allowing markets to work will alleviate Utah’s water problems more efficiently. Utah’s long history of water development has resulted in a complex and fragmented system of water management. Regulations that require farmers to use their water or lose their water rights discourage conservation. Complex bureaucratic approval processes discourage water trading. These policies should be reformed to allow for more efficient allocation of water according to its most highly valued use. The way that water is priced in Utah does not reflect its true cost. Both municipal and agricultural water in Utah are subsidized through property taxes. Agricultural water is also subsidized through federal water projects including the Central Utah Project. Block pricing schemes for municipal water increase the price per gallon as a household uses more water. This connects the amount of water that consumers use more closely to the price consumers pay. Politics is also a major determinant of water policy. In 2015, a legislative audit found that the Utah Division of Water Resources was overestimating Utah's water needs and underestimating Utah’s water supply. The division has used these exaggerated projections to justify building large, expensive water projects. The Bear River Development Project and the Lake Powell Pipeline are two proposed projects that will be expensive and potentially environmentally harmful. More sustainable and economical ways of managing Utah’s water include increasing the price to reflect cost and reducing or eliminating subsidies.

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Mar 28th, 1:55 PM Mar 28th, 2:00 PM

Water in Utah: Institutional, Economic, and Political Options for Reform

Logan Country Club

Utah is one of the driest states in the country and also has one of the highest domestic per capita rates of water consumption. The Utah Department of Water Resources has projected that by 2050 the state’s demand for water will overtake the available supply of water. Dire predictions like this have been used to justify the building of large, expensive water projects. This paper argues that allowing markets to work will alleviate Utah’s water problems more efficiently. Utah’s long history of water development has resulted in a complex and fragmented system of water management. Regulations that require farmers to use their water or lose their water rights discourage conservation. Complex bureaucratic approval processes discourage water trading. These policies should be reformed to allow for more efficient allocation of water according to its most highly valued use. The way that water is priced in Utah does not reflect its true cost. Both municipal and agricultural water in Utah are subsidized through property taxes. Agricultural water is also subsidized through federal water projects including the Central Utah Project. Block pricing schemes for municipal water increase the price per gallon as a household uses more water. This connects the amount of water that consumers use more closely to the price consumers pay. Politics is also a major determinant of water policy. In 2015, a legislative audit found that the Utah Division of Water Resources was overestimating Utah's water needs and underestimating Utah’s water supply. The division has used these exaggerated projections to justify building large, expensive water projects. The Bear River Development Project and the Lake Powell Pipeline are two proposed projects that will be expensive and potentially environmentally harmful. More sustainable and economical ways of managing Utah’s water include increasing the price to reflect cost and reducing or eliminating subsidies.