Drastic Times Call for Drastic Meters

November 4, 2022

In Utah, water providers use the term “secondary water” to refer to untreated, unfiltered water that is suitable used for residential landscaping and gardening. Historically, the state has not metered secondary connections, meaning that the amount of water applied to individual lawns and gardens was unknown and usage was only available on a system level based on water deliveries. In response to the ongoing drought, the Legislature has focused on the need to collect water data to improve the state’s understanding of how to best manage our hydrologic resources.

State Investments in Secondary Meters

In the 2019 General Session, the Legislature passed S.B. 52 “Secondary Water Requirements,” which allowed the Utah Board of Water Resources (Board) to annually issue up to $10 million in low interest loans to install secondary meters from the Water Resources Conservation and Development Fund.

During the 2021 General Session, S.B. 199 “Water Amendments” appropriated $2 million ongoing from the General Fund for grants to provide up to 50% cost share to install secondary meters on small systems in counties of the first and second class. During the 2021 First Special Session (and later by approval of the Executive Appropriations Committee), $50 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was appropriated to provide up to 70% cost share for secondary meter installation on existing systems1. During the 2022 General Session, H.B. 242 “Secondary Water Metering Amendments” appropriated $200 million from ARPA for grants that provide up to 70% of the cost to install meters on existing secondary systems, up to $10 million.

More than 75% of the ARPA funding for secondary meters has been authorized by the Board along with approximately $50 million in loan funds to 70 different applicants statewide. There remains $60.0 million in grant funding available from ARPA (70% cost share) and $2.75 million from the General Fund (50% cost share for certain systems). The Division expects to obligate remaining ARPA funds at their upcoming board meetings. This month the Division issued the first reimbursement for meters that have been installed with ARPA funds, meaning that most of the funded meters have yet to be installed.

Progress Towards Statewide Metering

Total Appropriation$250,000,000
Allocated Currently$190,000,000
Appropriated, Not Yet Allocated$60,000,000

It’s estimated that there are 260,000 secondary connections statewide and that 20% (or 52,000) of those connections were metered prior to 2022 (a small percentage of these were funded through loans made by the Board). The funding awarded by the Board to date is expected to meter an additional 114,000 secondary connections. Funding that has been appropriated to the Division which is not currently obligated is expected to meter an additional 35,000 connections.

Total Meters in the State260,000
Metered Before 202252,000
Estimated – To be Metered with Current Funding149,000
Estimated – Remaining Unmetered and Unfunded59,000

There are still approximately 59,000 connections statewide which are unmetered and will not be covered by currently appropriated grant funding. In the last two years, the cost of installing meters has also increased by about 25%. At a state cost share of $2,100 per meter, this would require an additional $124 million to meter systems statewide under the current grant program outlined in H.B. 242 (2022 General Session). UCA 73-10-34 institutes a $10 million loan cap annually for secondary metering projects, which has been achieved for FY 2023. As of September, the Water Resources Conservation and Development Fund has an unencumbered balance of approximately $31 million, however the Division expects this to be needed for other large water infrastructure projects, such as dam safety and irrigation pipelines.



Notes:

  1. See a complete list of investments in water infrastructure in this blog post from May 2022: https://budget.utah.gov/a-changing-landscape/.