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Second Highest Water Use in U. S.

The Utah Foundation has released the second installment of its research report on water development in Utah. The report is entitled "Creating An Oasis, Part Two: Water Consumption, Pricing and Conservation in Utah." In this follow up to the report released in February, an examination of water consumption within the state is followed by a discussion of conservation and pricing measures.

The key highlights of the document report the following.

•Utah's per capita daily consumption level in 1995 was 255 gallons. This was a 5.6 percent decline over the 10 year period studied.

•63 percent of Utah's residential water is devoted to outdoor use including watering the lawn.

•Water prices in Salt Lake City and Provo are lower than any other comparable western city, except Sacramento, Calif.

•In Salt Lake County, on average, only 49.5 percent of the cost of water is paid through retail billing.

•Nineteen percent of water costs in Salt Lake County are paid through retail billing.

The good news for Utahns is that while population has grown over the past ten years by approximately 20 percent, the per capita water usage level has declined by 5.6 percent. Conservation measures such as the installation of low flow plumbing fixtures in new construction have contributed to this decline in water usage.

Despite this decline, Utah still is the second largest per capita water consumer in the United States. The low price of water may contribute to the state's high consumption levels. Another contributing factor may be the use of property tax revenue for the normal operating expenses of water districts. Without tax revenue, districts might have raised prices to levels comparable with other cities in the region.

"It is really a matter of preferences," says senior research analyst Janice Houston regarding pricing and property tax revenue. "In the past, policy makers and citizens of the state have viewed water as a public good-one that all residents are entitled to. The question going forward is: can we as a state continue to view water in that light? Or has it become so scarce that it can only be viewed a commodity, one to which access is limited by price?"

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