State delivers $15M on 12 wastewater reuse projects in southern, central Utah

A woman and her children play in the Virgin River in St. George on June 10. St. George is slated to receive nearly $2 million for a wastewater reuse project from the Southern Utah Wastewater Grant Program.

A woman and her children play in the Virgin River in St. George on June 10. St. George is slated to receive nearly $2 million for a wastewater reuse project from the Southern Utah Wastewater Grant Program. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah environmental officials on Thursday announced how $15 million in state funds directed to wastewater reuse in southern Utah will be spent.

A dozen municipalities, conservancies and special service districts in the region will receive money toward reuse projects from the newly created Southern Utah Wastewater Grant Program, according to the Utah Division of Water Quality. John Mackey, the division's director, said all of the projects will seek to find "innovative solutions" to water conservation throughout the southern half of the state.

"These projects have the potential to become models for other communities throughout the state and the West," he added in a statement.

Wastewater reuse is where water from various sources is reclaimed, treated and reused for other uses, including agriculture and irrigation, potable water supplies and groundwater replenishment among other uses, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Utah Legislature created the program during the 2022 legislative season, using $15 million of the federal American Rescue Plan Act the state received.

Here's how those funds will be divvied up:

  • $7.35 million to Washington County Conservation District for reuse storage reservoirs at Toquer Reservoir and Dry Wash
  • $1.93 million to St. George for a graveyard wash reuse storage reservoir
  • $1.69 million to the Ash Creek Special Services District for filters and ultraviolet treatment
  • $1.68 million to Fairview for a Type I reuse system
  • $1.35 million to Cedar City for a reuse pump station and pipeline
  • $595,000 to Sherwood Shores (Delta) for a membrane bioreactor treatment and land application
  • $500,000 to the Central Iron County Water Conservation District for storage and reuse land application
  • $125,000 each to Kanab and Mt. Pleasant for a reuse planning study. Moroni is set to receive $90,000, while another $75,000 is headed to Torrey for similar studies.

Because the money is coming from the federal government's American Rescue Plan Act bill, all of the recipients are required to either spend or prove "sufficient progress" by Oct. 1, 2024, state officials said. They add that all funds must be spent by the end of 2026. Those who receive more than $150,000 must provide at least 30% of a project's total funds.

The founding this year could be just the beginning, too. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox is asking the Legislature to add another $75 million toward the program in the 2023 legislative session. It's one of many water conservation programs included within his $28.4 billion budget for the 2024 fiscal year that he released earlier this month.

He is requesting the Legislature set another $561 million toward water and conservation projects, which would increase total state spending to more than $1 billion over the past two years. The funding began after Utah fell into a severe drought beginning in 2020, which is still impacting the state. The West is also dealing with a two-decade-long "megadrought," which is considered the region's worst in 1,200 years.

Zach Renstrom, the general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District, said Utah's rapid growth and drought situation is fueling the "much-needed emphasis on water conservation and reuse projects." He added that Washington County has had to "accelerate the timeline" for its regional wastewater reuse project so the fast-rising county doesn't run out of water in the future.

"The project is estimated to cost more than $600 million and will take us over a decade to complete, but it will significantly expand our available water supply and position our county as a leader in wastewater reuse," Renstrom said in a statement Thursday. "We're grateful for all the collaboration and funding from the state to help us in this worthwhile effort."

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for


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