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Wanna build in Washington County? First, you’d better check with water managers

Housing under construction, St. George, Utah, April 18, 2022
Lexi Peery
/
KUER
A housing subdivision under construction in south St. George, Utah, April 18, 2022.

Washington County developers will soon need guarantees about water supply before building. It’s an effort to help municipalities and developers manage a dwindling resource.

“Will Serve letters” are a guarantee from the Washington County Water Conservancy District there’s enough water to go forward with a project. This comes as Utah experiences a historic drought and leaders in the arid county worry about new developments.

Zach Renstrom, the general manager of the water conservancy district, said that currently people are promised water later in the process when building permits are approved.

“How it's changing is with some very large master plan communities… before they start moving dirt and installing pipes, they want to make sure that they're going to have water when they actually start building the home itself,” he said. “They just want [it] a lot earlier on now.”

By getting involved early on, Renstrom said the district can give more input to make things more water efficient. He added it’ll also help them better plan when and where to build new water infrastructure projects.

These letters are going to create a more orderly system to keep track of water as the county continues to grow, said Stacy Young, the government affairs director with the Southern Utah Home Builders Association.

Young said most builders are discussing water supply among themselves, but this will formalize things.

“I think it's basically just one prong in an overall effort to just take the water management up a notch across the board,” Young said. “It's really only been fairly recent that we've started to get toward the end of the runway [of available water]. To this point, it's been a little less front and center.”

Municipalities in the area are also approving water conservation ordinances that do things like limit grass on new development and set standards for car washes. The St. George City Council is currently working on these rules and were poised to approve them at a July 14 meeting. However, questions about will serve letters led them to table the matter for two weeks.

Renstrom said the district expects to have the will serve letter system up and running by Jan. 1, 2023.

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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