Carla Wright, 6, fishes for brine shrimp on the beach at Antelope Island State Park with the help of Karen Roberson on Saturday, September 5, 2015. Great Salt Lake.
File photo of Benjamin Zack, Standards Examiner
Great Salt Lake Collaborative
Editor’s note: This article is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative. This Solutions journalism initiative partners with news, education and media organizations to help inform people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake and what they can do to make a difference before it’s too late. Read the full story at greatsaltlakenews.org.
SALT LAKE CITY — 20% more water could be pumped into the Great Salt Lake if property tax laws were changed to enforce protections, according to new research released by an environmental group.
A proposed bill in the Utah legislature, first reported on FOX 13 News in May, would exempt water use from property taxes. People pay tolls now, but most of the water is funded by property taxes.
“We can return property taxes to property taxpayers, thereby reducing water use upstream of the Great Salt Lake by 20 percent,” said Zach Frankel, executive director of the Utah Rivers Council. “We don’t just encourage homeowners to save water. , are large users of water because they have huge facilities that use treated cooking water.”
The Great Salt Lake is currently at historically low levels and is projected to continue to decline. Water volumes have decreased dramatically due to water diversion, massive droughts and the impact of climate change. It poses a significant public health, ecological, and economic threat to the state through toxic dust, reduced snow cover, and impacts on lake-dependent wildlife and industries. State leaders have mobilized to spend money, pass legislation and reverse declines to advance water conservation.
The Utah River Council surveyed 342 wholesale water suppliers in the western United States in Washington, Oregon, Montana, Nevada, Colorado, California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas and compared property tax collections to Utah. said. Comparisons were made to water bodies in Central Utah, the Weber Basin, Jordan Valley, Washington County, and Metropolitan (Salt Lake City and Sandy).
According to the group, Utah’s water utilities collected three times more property taxes than other states. (Montana, Nevada, and Washington had no collections from property taxes.) The Utah Rivers Council found that Utah’s largest water utility raised $132 million, compared with seven The state’s 100 water utilities said they had raised $83 million.
Frankel argued that overcollecting property taxes would lower the price of water, leading to overconsumption of water.
“If we continue to consume too much water upstream in the Great Salt Lake, we will have to spend billions of dollars on mitigation because of the dust problem,” Frankel told FOX 13 News. We can avoid it by phasing out globally and using less water.”
Last week, a bill to cut the water out of property taxes was formally introduced to the Interim Revenue and Taxation Committee of the Utah Legislature. Its sponsor, Senator Dan McKay (R-Riverton), told FOX 13 News that by tying water use to a fee, it would show people the “true cost of water” and encourage more people to use it during droughts. He said he would be forced into protection.
“People realize that their bill could go up and they start thinking about how to cut it, how to change it,” he said.
It also means that major institutions such as schools, churches and nonprofits will have to pay more for the water they use. Utah’s leading nonprofit real estate owner, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has so far refused to participate in the bill (although Senator McKay has yet to hear opposition from them). said no).
However, the bill faced significant backlash from groups representing water districts and local governments. They were concerned that major changes could impact how critical water infrastructure projects are paid for, pushing up consumer rates.
Salt Lake City Public Utilities Director Laura Briefer told FOX 13 News she has great concerns about the bill. tax rate), she said the bill’s “cascading effects” need to be pondered.
“We want to make sure our fees are fair across different user groups where residents pay their fair share and the industry pays their fair share. We want to ensure that future generations can reap the benefits without the cost of ,” she said in an interview Tuesday.
Briefer said it’s also important for water utilities to have a steady stream of revenue to pay for these major water projects for public health and safety.
“We don’t have enough information about these unintended consequences. I understand the sentiment behind the bill, wanting people to understand the true value of water,” she said. I fully understand the problem, especially as we see drying and the Great Salt Lake problem, and that is really important.”
The bill had bipartisan support from lawmakers tackling the drought and shrinking Great Salt Lake. Senator McKay has agreed to put the bill on hold while he negotiates with the Water District. He intends to submit it to the committee for voting next month.