Health Department proposes new ordinance governing water availability
More than a year after the Summit County Health Department began updating the county’s water concurrency ordinance, a draft of the proposed ordinance has been released for public comment.
The proposed ordinance will replace the one that is considered to be outdated. It will place the regulation of water availability in the Snyderville Basin under the purview of the Summit County Board of Health. The Health Department is soliciting public comment until 5 p.m. Thursday, March 17. A public hearing and possible adoption of the new ordinance is scheduled on Monday, May 2.
Concurrency ensures there is actual water available when water letters are provided in development matters and water rights are sold. Concurrency doesn’t focus on water quality as much as it addresses the issue of quantity and availability. The current ordinance was adopted in the 1990s, but many argue it was never fully implemented.
The Utah Division of Drinking Water regulates quality while the Utah state engineer regulates water rights, essentially "paper water," according to the proposed ordinance. However, neither regulates the availability.
"The board strongly believes that new growth should not occur unless the water supplier who will serve the new growth can demonstrate that it has and will have the ability to develop the physical water resources to provide the anticipated service," the ordinance states.
Last year, the Health Department introduced the idea of updating the ordinance to essentially "clean up a mess," according to Richard Bullough, Summit County health director. However, the process was put on hold as the County Courthouse dealt with water rights.
"What took so long is in the middle of that discussion we were negotiating with Weber Basin Water Conservancy District and decided to pull back on the concurrency issue until that was resolved," Bullough said "We then met with the water companies, the county and others and had a conversation about the concurrency ordinance that is on the books and where we needed to go."
The Health Department charged the water companies with essentially creating a spreadsheet of what is available versus what the demand is, Bullough said, adding that Summit Water Distribution Company, Mountain Regional Water District, Service Area No. 3 and Gorgoza Mutual Water Company significantly contributed to the process. Each is a well-known water provider in the Basin.
"That tool was literally developed by the water companies and we have engaged them in a way that has not been done before," Bullough said. "They have piloted it and they all seem to support using that tool, but there is still controversy around the legal language in the ordinance that supports the use of that tool.
"But that does not mean that this is not without controversy," he said. "Part of the controversy of this is, ‘Why do you have to have the ordinance if we have agreed to use this tool?’ "Well the answer is it assures some consistency. This is as fundamental as that. If more of the community understood that and looked at it they would know this makes common sense."
Bullough said he received a call this week from a property manager voicing support for the new ordinance because the places he manages are "valueless without water."
"We are going further in Summit County than many other communities in requiring the water companies to do this, but this is done everywhere" he said. "We are just expecting a little more commitment and engagement from the water companies, but it’s actually a little less strict of an ordinance because we have eliminated much of their duplicate work."
If the board approves the proposed ordinance, water concurrency will be implemented on the East Side in three years as well.
The Health Department is soliciting public comment by email at email@example.com or by mail to Katie Mullaly, Summit County Health Department, 650 Round Valley Drive, Suite 100 Park City, Utah 84060. The comment period closes at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 17. A public hearing and possible adoption of the updated ordinance is scheduled Monday, May 2. To view the proposed ordinance go to http://www.summitcountyhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Water-Concurrency-For-30-Day-Comment.pdf.
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The Summit County Board of Health has selected Phil Bondurant to be the Health Department’s next director, opting for continuity rather than a broad candidate search while the department continues to navigate the pandemic and its aftereffects.