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Kristin Murphy, KSL, File

Water reforms get approval in Utah Senate committee

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue, KSL | Posted - Mar. 6, 2019 at 3:34 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Both ratepayers and cities will have greater certainty when it comes to the delivery of water to customers outside a municipality's borders under measures endorsed Wednesday in a Senate committee.

HJR1 is a proposal to amend a provision in the state's 1896 constitution that prohibits a city from selling or leasing its water.

Instead, what cities have done is enter into "surplus" water contracts for those deliveries, contracts involving permanent water supplies that nevertheless can be canceled with as little as 30 days' notice.

Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, said the inherently temporary nature of those contracts caused fear and concern, leaving those customers vulnerable.

Her bill, HB31, would implement the policy change that comes with the constitutional revision resolution that Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, is sponsoring.

Stratton likened the tough nature of the policy shifts to a loose tooth his grandson didn't want anyone to touch, or painful splinters his granddaughter hates to have removed.

"These issues have been festering for decades and (are) really on a collision course with the need we will have as our state grows to make sure we have good water policy," he said.


Water attorney Steve Clyde noted the thousands of hours spent by experts over the summer that went into eking out a compromise, that while not perfect, solves "about 99 percent" of the problem.

"It is about as broad and deep as you can get," he said.

Coleman's bill will require municipalities to provide maps of their service boundaries and includes an equal protection clause for those customers outside those boundaries, giving them greater recourse should disputes arise.

As it stands, Coleman said, those impacted residents have no say at the voting booth to hold elected officials accountable if water is suddenly taken away or if the rates are excessive.

Both measures, which passed in the House, now go to the full Senate.

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