Flowing in the Desert: A Primer on Utah Water Law

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Utah is one of the driest states in the nation. Making sure the state manages water well is essential to its rapid population growth and economic expansion.

This report, Flowing in the Desert: A Primer on Utah Water Law, focuses on providing a background of Utah’s water law. A basic understanding of water law is essential for any policy discussion about water.

Water law provides the foundation upon which the rest of Utah’s water policy is built. Any changes individuals or governments might need to make to ensure a safe and sustainable water supply will be easier or more feasible if they fit within the existing framework. However, larger changes can and have been made to the state’s water law to help ensure Utah’s water future. Since the total supply of water is limited by nature, much of the discussion orients around how the existing supply should be distributed. Utah’s water law is the structure that organizes and determines that distribution.

There are concerns that Utah’s water law a) provides incentives for water-right holders to waste water, b) distributes water in a way that might have been a better fit for historic needs rather than modern Utah needs, and c) limits how water can be used. After outlining Utah water law, this report briefly outlines these concerns and offers possible avenues for addressing these concerns.


Also read the Utah Foundation’s first report in this series: Flowing into the Desert: A Background on Water in Utah.

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