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Utah State Engineer Where Do We Go From Here? (and how are we going to get there?). The Rural Water Association of Utah Kent L. Jones, P.E. Overview. General Philosophy Change Applications: Non-Use Water Right Sole Supply Change Applications: Surface to Groundwater

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Utah state engineer where do we go from here and how are we going to get there

Utah State EngineerWhere Do We Go From Here?(and how are we going to get there?)

The Rural Water Association of Utah

Kent L. Jones, P.E.


  • General Philosophy

  • Change Applications: Non-Use

  • Water Right Sole Supply

  • Change Applications: Surface to Groundwater

  • Management of the Division of Water Rights

  • Current Legislation

  • Working with the Legislature

  • Working with Water Users

  • Municipal Proof Policy

  • Groundwater Management Plans

General philosophy
General Philosophy

  • More public meetings & efforts at education

  • State Engineer must remain independent and objective

  • Decisions must be based on

    • sound science

    • defendable principle

    • workable administrative policy.

  • All things being equal, in situations where there may be some doubt, the State Engineer should take into account the interest of the water user.

Change applications non use
Change Applications: Non-Use

  • The Division will not specifically look for non-use, however, if the issue is raised either by parties involved or our own awareness, questions will be asked concerning when the water was last used.

  • The State Engineer will not approve a change application on a water right (or that portion of a water right) that might be subject to forfeiture because the water user may not be entitled to the use of water.

Water right sole supply
Water Right Sole Supply

  • Required when a change application is filed on a water right in a water use group that separates the water right from the group.

  • Generally not required when the change includes all water rights in a water user group or the water use group is not broken up.

  • Municipalities will be exempt from the rule.

  • Applicant required to do as much as possible to complete a Statement of Group Contribution.

Water right sole supply cont
Water Right Sole Supply (cont.)

  • Applicants may request assistance from the State Engineer.

  • S.E. will review historical records provided and water right records.

  • S.E. will make an administrative determination of the sole supply of the water rights in the change application.

  • Notification of the pending change application and the sole supply determination - invitation to protest.

Change applications surface to groundwater
Change Applications: Surface to Groundwater

  • Surface water and ground water are different water environments – connected but different in the timing and availability of water supply.

  • As water rights are changed from the surface to underground:

    • The priority doctrine needs to be applied differently.

    • Adaptations in the water right need to be made to provide for the difference (haircuts)

  • Water measurement requirements on heretofore and hereafter sources

Management of the division of water rights
Management ofthe Division of Water Rights

  • Priorities

    • Processing applications in a timely manner

    • Reducing application backlog

    • Review application processing procedure

      • Layered system of review

      • Discussion of complex applications prior to decision

  • Empowering Staff

    • Delegation of authority and responsibility

    • Adequate review and statewide consistency

    • Increased training and communication efforts.

Management of the division of water rights cont
Management ofthe Division of Water Rights (cont.)

  • Budget Situation – 2009 will be a difficult year

    • A general 15% cut will affect staffing levels. The Department has helped in this area.

    • 4 already laid off

    • Sales tax

    • Division processes are staff sensitive – any reductions through layoffs or furloughs will cause slow downs.

  • Fees

    • Most Division fees will double

    • Stream Alteration

      • Commercial, Government Agency, Non- commercial

Current legislation
Current Legislation

  • HB 389 Simplifying Proofs on Small Applications

    • Benefit water users & reduce Division workload

    • Appurtenance: limited to small parcels or Division will assign an area of appurtenance around dwelling.

    • Caveat on certificate: when quantification is required (adjudication process or change application) it will be based on actual use within past 7 years.

    • Will not approve applications attempting to consolidate small unused portions of these types of rights and change them to a different use.

    • Lapsed small domestic – opportunity to file replacement.

Current legislation cont
Current Legislation (cont.)

  • HB 383 Adjudication Amendments

    • There is a need to be able to replace the court’s list of water right applications with the S.E.’s updated list.

    • Adjudications do need to move forward and be completed within a reasonable and meaningful time frame.

    • Meetings with water users prior to the hydrographic survey and at the time the proposed determination are published are helpful – the Division has already started to hold these meetings.

Current legislation cont1
Current Legislation (cont.)

  • HB 241 Repeal of Section 73-3-21 Priority Among Water Users

    • This has been a confusing part of the statute for many years.

    • It should be either repealed or the intent of the statute should be clarified.

    • The priority doctrine is one of the main foundations of Utah water law and it must not be weakened.

Current legislation cont2
Current Legislation (cont.)

  • HB 256 Amendments to 73-3-31 Water Right for Watering Livestock

    • Not set up to accept online applications or fees – have not taken this step because of the costs involved.

    • Adjudication concerns:

      • Who should be listed as the owner of a right to water livestock on public land – the agency or the user of the grazing permit?

Working with the legislature
Working with the Legislature

  • The State Engineer will work with any task force or work group created by the legislature to review water right issues.

  • Water Development Commission will continue to be a legislative forum for the discussion of water issues.

  • It is not a policy making board for the State Engineer or the Division of Water Rights and cannot dictate to the State Engineer, he is open to discussions with that group and will consider any suggestions it cares to offer.

  • The State Engineer must remain independent in the water right decisions he is called upon to make.

Working with water users
Working with Water Users

  • The market hates cost, uncertainty, and delay

  • Utah is a diverse state and water users are faced with a wide variety of water related challenges.

  • Input is helpful from water users regarding water right issues and policies in their specific areas.

  • A unified process for working with and receiving input from water users would be helpful.

  • Tooele Valley example - Water Advisory Committees

Municipal proof policy
Municipal Proof Policy

  • Changes are needed

  • Existing procedures will be discussed and reviewed

Groundwater management plans
Groundwater Management Plans

  • Beryl Enterprise GWMP

    • Current legislative moratorium

    • Water users have submitted a proposed GWMP

    • When allowed, the plan will be reviewed and further discussions with the water users will be held

    • Groundwater is being mined but irrigation should remain economically feasible in the area for quite some time but for how long (50 years or 200 years??).

Groundwater management plans cont
Groundwater Management Plans (cont.)

  • The State Engineer does not believe he has a responsibility to protect water users from themselves.

  • Where it appears no specific water user is being injured, the S.E.’s role is:

    • to point out problems and areas of concern

    • to offer help and suggestions

    • Encourage water users to develop a plan and take active steps to remedy the problem.

Groundwater management plans cont1
Groundwater Management Plans (cont.)

  • Future efforts on GWMPs in other areas will depend upon

    • Complaints received from water users regarding the problem

    • The groundwater situation in the area

    • The status of the water rights in the area

    • The availability of resources to complete the project

    • The willingness of the local water users to help develop a reasonable solution to the problem.