Since 2001, TU has worked to establish the Utah Water Project as a reasonable, pragmatic voice for river conservation in state decisions affecting the use, management and allocation of water. From the beginning, TU has reached out to key players in the water community, including the Utah Farm Bureau, the Water Users Association, the Office of the State Engineer, the Department of Natural Resources, the Mormon Church, and influential lawyers and politicians.
These efforts have paid dividends, on April 10th 2008 a TU drafted instream flow bill was signed into law by Utah Governor John Huntsman Jr. successfully culminating several years of dedicated legislative efforts by local TU staff and grassroots members. Under the new bill’s terms, NGOs and private groups may lease water rights for use as instream flows to benefit native trout. Previously, only the Utah Division of Natural Resources held this right and specific wording in that statute had limited instream flow leasing efforts to less than a handful of transactions. Passage of TU’s water bill opens the door to free market transactions with private landowners and agricultural producers and promises to speed up instream flow protection efforts. In fact, Utah now joins Montana as one of the few western states in which private instream flow leasing opportunities exists.
TU’s legislative success received positive coverage in local media outlets. In addition, the bill’s passage cemented TU as a moderate voice for conservation in political circles while also promoting grass roots participation in conservation efforts.
To increase exposure for Utah’s new instream flow legislation and to encourage transactions TU continues to educate the public in various ways. These efforts include sponsoring tables at agricultural conventions, presenting to local school children and groups like the Water Users Association and the Upper Colorado River Commission.