There were a number of water-related bills that were considered during the 2024 legislative session that were ultimately not passed. Below are bill summaries (drafted by the water attorneys at Smith Hartvigsen) about these bills that did not pass.

HB 230 – State Agency Application Review Requirements
Rep. Thomas W. Peterson

House Bill 230 sought to put time limitations on decisions
made by agencies within the Utah Department of Natural Resources, including the
Utah Division of Water Rights. For example, the bill would have required the
Division of Water Rights to issue an Order on a Change Application within 30
days after the protest period ended. Similar timelines would also have been
required on other water filings, including Exchange Applications, Nonuse
Applications, Reports of Conveyance, Extension Requests, and Proofs of Beneficial
Use. If the Division had failed to issue an Order within the timeframe, the
filing would have been considered approved.

To read the full text of the bill, click here.

HB 242 (2nd Substitute) – Water Usage Data Amendments
Rep. Melissa G. Ballard

House Bill 242 (2nd Substitute) would have required the Utah
Division of Water Resources to study the water use of Utah’s public schools,
including charter schools, in the more populous counties. The Division would
have to complete the study by October 1, 2025. The results of the study were to
include recommendations of actions that schools can take to reduce water use
and recommendations to the legislature regarding whether schools should be
required to provide annual reports of water use to the Division. The bill would
have provided a mechanism for schools and school districts to purchase smart
irrigation controllers. Finally, the bill would have required all State
agencies to report their annual water use data to the Division beginning in
2027.

To read the full text of the bill, click here.

HB 243 (4th Substitute) – Riparian Amendments
Rep. Gay Lynn Bennion

The original draft of HB 243 would have required counties
and municipalities to include a riparian area element in their general plans
beginning in 2029. It also would have created a riparian resources database and
provided technical assistance in the development of the required plans. Due to
concerns about implementation costs and the protection of private property
rights, the bill’s regulatory requirements and scope were pared back
substantially in successive substitutes to the bill. Ultimately, the 4th Substitute
was defeated on the House floor. Rep. Bennion has expressed an intent to
continue working with stakeholders in the interim period to introduce another
riparian bill in the 2025 Legislature.

To read the full text of the bill, click here.

HB 401 – Water Usage Amendments
Rep. Doug Owens

House Bill 401 was a significant retooling of legislation
run by Rep. Owens in the 2023 Legislative Session. The bill would have
prohibited the irrigation of lawn or turf in most of northern Utah from October
1 to April 30—the so-called “shoulder seasons.” Violations would have resulted
in a fine of at least $50 for the first violation and $100 for successive
violations. The bill included exceptions for newly planted sod or grass seed.
The Division of Water Rights would have been required to produce an annual “good
faith estimate” of water savings from restricting shoulder season irrigation.
The bill was on a committee agenda in mid-February, but was not considered in
that meeting and never resurfaced during the session. 

To read the full text of the bill, click here.

HJR 27 – Water Efficient Landscaping for New Construction
Rep. Doug Owens

House Joint Resolution 27 recognized the low water level in
the Great Salt Lake and the need for conservation in order to help restore the
Great Salt Lake. This resolution specifically detailed that landscaping
techniques that use less water is an appropriate solution and requested that
municipalities and counties adopt water efficiency standards and promote water
efficient landscaping. If House Joint Resolution 27 had passed, it would not
have been a requirement for municipalities and counties to have water efficient
landscaping or water efficiency standards but would have only a suggestion from
the legislature. This resolution seems to have not passed as the Utah
legislature appears to be much more focused on providing incentives for water
conservation instead of mandating conservation or even the appearance of
mandating conservation.  

To read the full text of the bill, click here.

SB 118 (4th Substitute) – Water Efficiency Amendments
Sen. Michael K. McKell

Senate Bill 118 (4th Substitute) sought to provide
incentives for developers to use water efficient landscaping in new residential
developments in the Great Salt Lake Basin. In order to receive any incentives,
the district where the residential development would be located needed to
request grant money from the Division of Water Resources and provide the
Division with a new construction landscaping incentive program. Districts that
obtained grants could then disperse grant money to new residential construction
projects in accordance with rules set by the Division of Water Resources.
Although this bill did not pass, it was extensively worked on and amended. In
order to promote conservation, the Utah legislature seems to be focused on
providing incentives for conservation instead of requiring conservation through
mandates. It would not be surprising if a similar bill is presented in next
year’s legislative session.

To read the full text of the bill, click here.

SB 203 (1st Substitute) – Drinking Water Amendments
Sen. Scott D. Sandall

Senate Bill 203 proposed to enact Utah Code section 19-4-116
to permit the Department of Environmental Quality to establish and implement an
annual fee on a public water system in the state for the direct delivery of
water to an end user for human consumption and other domestic uses, on a per
connection or consumption basis; implement a reasonable fee for plan review;
and implement a reasonable fee for a public water system sanitary survey. These
may all include fees that provide financial incentives for certain public and
community water systems, except for wholesale water suppliers. The department
would retain the fees as dedicated credits and use the fees to administer the
regulation of public water systems, under monitoring from the Office of the
Legislative Fiscal Analyst.

 To read the full text of the bill, click here.