Questions About Forming a Water Conservancy District

 

Why a district?

The purpose of a District in Cache County is to protect and conserve our long-term agricultural, environmental and municipal water interests with an emphasis on securing our allocation entitlements pursuant to the Bear River Development Act. The County has experienced increased demands related to water issues and reduced resources to meet the demand. A district would promote water conservation and safeguard adequate amounts of water for the inhabitants of the areas included within the District at a reasonable cost and in a reasonable manner of delivery.

 

How is a district created?

There are two basic methods to initiate the creation of the District: (1) By resolutions adopted by the Cache County Council and the legislative bodies of each municipality within Cache County, or (2) By a petition.

 

How is a district organized and governed?

The final organization and governance of the District would be created based on input from the citizens. The District Board of Trustees can include up to eleven members and must include a majority of elected officials. Input and communication about the formation of the Board are needed to ensure the District serves all water users in the District area and is a fit for Cache County’s needs.

 

Will Cache County control the district?

The County can create the District, but once formed, the District will operate as an independent entity to plan, safeguard, and manage water resources for the benefit of the public in the geographic area they represent.

 

What are the next steps?

The County desires continued collaboration throughout this iterative process as we seek to educate ourselves to establish the best method to protect our water resources.  We will be reaching out to local stakeholders, including each municipality, irrigators and other water users, to gather feedback and discuss the next steps.

 

How can I be informed and involved?

You can help the county protect your water by becoming familiar with water issues and expressing your opinions and knowledge. Your input is needed and valued.

 

 

What is the Bear River Development Act?

In 1991, The Utah Division of Water Resources (DWRe) was tasked with developing the Bear River waters based on legislation that was defined as part of the Bear River Development Act (BRDA). The BRDA identified the volume of water that could be stored in the Bear River drainage basin during winter months without negatively impacting the existing water right holders along the river and at the Bear River Bird Refuge. Under the BRDA, 220,000 acre-feet of water can be developed in Utah.  The 220,000 acre-feet that could be developed is currently split as follows

  • 50,000 acre-feet to the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District(Salt Lake County)
  • 50,000 acre-feet to the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District (Davis and Weber Counties)
  • 60,000 acre-feet to Bear River Water Conservancy District (Box Elder County)
  • 60,000 acre-feet to Cache County or a Water Conservancy District in Cache County

 

How much can a conservancy district tax?

The maximum property tax levy a water conservancy district can impose is 0.0001 per dollar before certain activities are commenced, 0.0002 per dollar after certain activities are commenced, and 0.0003 per dollar if an additional levy is necessary to pay maturing bonds or debts.  The average home value in Cache County is $188,000, but the fair market value of residential property is allowed an exemption equal to a 45% reduction in the value of the property for property tax purposes.  Taking these facts into consideration, the estimated average annual financial impact on a household within the proposed district will be as follows: the tax on a $188,000 residence would be $10.34 using a tax rate of 0.0001, $20.68 using a tax rate of 0.0002, and $31.01 using a tax rate of 0.0003.  Service fees and assessments cannot be estimated, and will be charged based upon actual water deliveries or commitments or agreed upon amounts.  

 

Why do we need a tax/district?

We need to conserve and protect our water resources for agricultural, environmental and municipal needs. Districts across the state have done better at promoting conservation than we have without a district. The time to protect our Bear River allocation is now. 7 reasons to act now:

  1. Our Bear River allocation has already been reduced; we must protect what we still have.
  2. A district provides us with a board that is focused on water issues and has authority to make water decisions and agreements needed to protect our water.
  3. A district unifies our county into a stronger voice to protect our water and address our regional water needs.
  4. State funding is more available for water improvements in areas that are part of a district. 
  5. A district gives us more clout with the legislature on state water issues the affect us. 
  6. A district facilitates needed regional projects involving multiple communities and/or irrigation companies while allowing individual irrigation companies and water systems to manage their own systems.
  7. The County Water Master plan outlined steps that need to be followed in the future in order for us to have a secure water supply in the future. The cost to follow those steps would be very similar whether we do it through the County or through a conservancy district. 

 

 

The County has tried to implement a conservancy district previously. Why are we looking at this again?  What has changed since the last time a district was proposed?

  • Water conservancy board members can now be elected. State code was changed in 2010 to allow conservancy district board members to be elected or appointed. Previously, for conservancy districts, board members were appointed. The code requires that a majority of the board members be elected officials. (Utah Code 17B-2a-1005)

 

  • Conservancy districts are more focused on water conservation. In 2000, the governor set a goal to reduce the per capita water use 25% by 2050. Since then, many of the conservancy districts have done well at this through commitment of resources to educate the public about water conservation. State-wide, Utah has conserved 18%, but Cache County has only Conserved 6%.  Cache County citizens should be more engaged in conservation and districts provide a mechanism for conservation promotion.

 

  • Bear River development plans for the Wasatch Front have progressed. Property has been purchased for a pipeline corridor from Box Elder County to Salt Lake County. Reservoir sites in Box Elder County and Cache County are being evaluated for construction by conservancy districts along the Wasatch Front. Reservoir and pipeline projects will not be completed until around 2035 because it takes that long to plan a project of that magnitude. (See Bear River Pipeline Concept Report).  A district provides the needed structure and authority to form regional contracts that must be in place to utilize Cache County’s Bear River water allocation. 

 

  • County population has changed by more than 30%. The population for the County given in the 2000 census was 91,391. The 2010 census population for the County was 112,656 with a projected population for 2013 of 120,046. This increase in population results in an increase in demand and reduction in excess supply.

 

  • Groundwater Management Plan enacted in September 1999. The ground water management plan limits the amount of water that can be withdrawn from County aquifers. Existing rights (typically agricultural water rights) have to be used as replacement water.  A conservancy district allows for more efficient conversion of water from agricultural to municipal use with the ability to bank water rights. A conservancy district is needed to have the resources and focus to develop the Bear River allocation. The developed allocation can help preserve agricultural land by giving an alternative source for water rights in areas that currently have no water rights, such as bench areas, as these areas are developed.

 

  • We Hired a Water Manager - We made a step forward hiring a water manager which has helped, but is not enough moving forward.  A water manager does not have the authority to sign contracts that are needed to protect our water.