2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 3:30 PM


ISAACSON, Alan E., Bureau of Economic and Business Research, University of Utah, 1645 E. Campus Center Drive, Room 401, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, bebraei@business.utah.edu

The public water system supplying the Wasatch Front is one of the most complex in the country. Development of this water system has altered natural flows, including transbasin diversions from the Duchesne and Weber Rivers to the Provo River, diversion of surface water through the Salt Lake Valley, and dewatering of local streams. Water sources supplying the Wasatch Front are divided evenly between surface water and groundwater and include rivers draining the Uinta Mountains, local streams, and numerous wells and springs.

Effective operation of the system supplying water to the Wasatch Front requires cooperation among over 100 water suppliers. These include municipal water systems, water improvement districts, water conservancy districts, for-profit utilities, and nonprofit associations.

The area's population is projected to rise by 88 percent over the next 45 years, requiring additional water sources and increased water conservation. Surface water rights in the Provo and Weber River Basins are considered fully appropriated and only limited groundwater rights are available. This limited water supply coupled with expected growth is forcing water suppliers to develop new water sources.

The U.S. Department of Interior recently approved construction of the Utah Lake Drainage Basin Water Delivery System which will transfer 101,900 acre-feet annually from the Green River drainage to Salt Lake and Utah Counties. Planned water deliveries through this system include 30,000 acre-feet to southern Utah County for use in secondary water systems, 30,000 acre-feet delivered to Salt Lake County water treatment plants, 1,590 acre-feet already contracted to southern Utah County municipalities, and 40,310 acre-feet of water to Utah Lake to exchange water rights to Jordanelle Reservoir and maintain in-stream flows.

Legislation passed in the 1990s reserved 220,000 acre-feet of Bear River water for various water suppliers in Box Elder, Cache, Davis, Salt Lake and Weber Counties. Current plans call for piping water from somewhere below Cutler Dam on the Bear River to Willard Bay Reservoir and building conveyance and treatment facilities to deliver the water to consumers along the Wasatch Front, along with construction of an additional reservoir to store water for delivery to Box Elder and Cache Counties.