ST. GEORGE – The Utah State Records Committee voted unanimously Thursday to require the Division of Water Resources to turn over its water database to the water advocacy group Utah Rivers Council.
Utah Rivers Council maintains that water officials are using faulty information to justify spending billions of dollars on projects such as the Lake Powell Pipeline and the Bear River Development Project.
“It is silly we had to go to the State Records Committee to find out how much water Utah is using,” Utah Rivers Council Executive Director Zach Frankel said. “Water education and water conservation are in everybody’s best interest.”
Utah Rivers Council appealed to the records committee for access to the Division of Water Resources raw water use data and 2015 water use data summaries in November 2016 after being denied a request under the Government Records Access and Management Act.
Division of Water Resources had said the data was available online and that the division was legally required to have it analyzed by a third party before releasing an official analysis; however, the Records Committee ruled against the division.
“In questioning from the Committee members it was revealed that the division maintained a separate database of water use information from other water agencies,” Frankel said.
“This was revelatory because, in their defense, the Division claimed that the (GRAMA) request had been satisfied through a separate website maintained by another agency.”
“City water use is widely available across the U.S. and many Utah cities have shared their numbers with the Utah Rivers Council,” Frankel said. “But once this data goes to the Division of Water Resources, the agency claimed it should not be available to the public, even though the agency claims the data shows Utah is running out of water.”
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Utah has the highest per-person municipal water use in the U.S. and has invested $4 million over the last 16 years in TV, radio and newspaper ads to encourage people to save water, Frankel said.
“A recent press release by the division claimed their conservation efforts have been a success,” Frankel said, “but without the public seeing the data, no fact checking can be done to determine whether these claims are fact or fiction.”
The Division of Water Resources issued this statement after the hearing:
The Utah Division of Water Resources respects the State Records Committee and this process. We anticipate receiving the official order within the next week, and we are in the process of evaluating next steps.
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