Water for Great Salt Lake – Update from Smith Hartvigsen

Water for Great Salt Lake

Nathan Bracken, Smith Hartvigsen, PLLC

On September 24, the Utah Division of Water Rights approved two fixed time change applications – 59-3518 (f46437) and 59-5334 (f46438) – that will deliver up to approximately 21,000 acre-feet of water to Great Salt Lake’s Farmington Bay via the Jordan River for the next 10 years, subject to seasonal water availability and priority of water rights. The applications are the result of a collaborative effort involving the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Rio Tinto Kennecott, the Central Utah Water Conservancy District, the National Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, and the Utah Reclamation Mitigation and Conservation Commission. The approvals are significant because they represent the first recognition that providing water to support the open areas of Great Salt Lake can qualify as a beneficial use under certain circumstances.

The approvals cap a multi-year effort that began in 2019 when Audubon and The Nature Conservancy approached the Division of Wildlife Resources, Kennecott, and Central Utah about exploring opportunities for using Jordan River water rights to benefit Farmington Bay, which has been impacted in recent years by low water flows. These discussions resulted in Kennecott and Central Utah donating Jordan River water rights to the Division of Wildlife to provide flows to Farmington Bay. Under Utah law, the Division is authorized to use Farmington Bay and other portions of Great Salt Lake for the creation, operation, maintenance and management of wildlife management areas, and other purposes, all of which require water flows. Previously, the water rights had been used for industrial and other purposes and were diverted 30-40 miles upstream. Under the approvals, the water rights will no longer be diverted and will instead flow down river through the Lower Jordan River and into Farmington Bay. For more information on the approvals, click here.