Of Budgets and Brine Shrimp: Recent Investments in Utah’s Water

April 12, 2024

It’s hard to believe that two years ago we were writing about the abnormally dry conditions gripping the state, while last year the legislature considered how to pay for the impending threat of flooding. It’s true that every General Session has the common problem of predicting what resources will be needed up to 15 months in the future, but this guessing game is compounded when budget for water projects is impacted by the hydrologic cycle.

As can be detected in the graph above, the 2021 First Special Session was the state’s first slice of the $1.38B in discretionary funding provided by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). This infusion of cash, combined two years of exorbitant revenue growth, provided policy makers with unprecedented resources to invest in water. The majority of these investments were appropriated to the Department of Natural Resources, and over 40% of these projects were funded through ARPA. Almost all of this funding was appropriated one-time (93%), with policymakers understanding both the limitations of ARPA and holding expectations of stabilized revenue growth.

The majority of these projects were funded for residential (municipal) water, for both water delivery and secondary water projects. The second largest investment was in irrigation water efficiency, which in northern Utah, could prove beneficial to the Great Salt Lake. The charts on this page do not reflect federal grants, including those provided through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. In the 2022 General Session, Utah maximized its matching potential with the expectation of receiving over $144 million for Drinking Water and Wastewater (Water Quality) projects.

Currently, the state’s precipitation level is slightly above the 10-year average, snowpack is ahead of schedule, and most reservoirs (spare Lake Powell) are close to 80 percent full. As the wettest months of the year wrap up, we’ll see how these recent investments have made the state more resilient to the full landscape of water scenarios.

A summary brief including funding items through the 2024 General Session is available here: Recent Legislative Investments in Water.