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Salt Lake City eyes limiting water use for commercial and industrial projects as drought continues

Photo of dripping spigot. / Wirachai
Salt Lake City’s proposed ordinance for intensive water users would impact businesses like bottling plants and chemical manufacturers.

Commercial and industrial developments in Salt Lake City could be limited to 300,000 gallons of water per day under a proposed ordinance.

That’s equal to nearly half of what fills an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

There are currently only two users above that: the University of Utah and a refinery.

“Although we don't really have a lot of these high-intensity uses right now, we could see these users coming into the city,” said Salt Lake City planner Daniel Echeverria.

At a Salt Lake City Council work session Tuesday, he said there have been inquiries from businesses that want to locate in Salt Lake that could potentially use a lot of water, like bottling plants and data centers.

Some council members suggested going even further with the restrictions. Councilmember Dan Dugan proposed limiting use at 200,000 gallons or less.

“Our water will be our Achilles heel for this city and for this state,” Dugan said. “I think we're doing a disservice by leaving it at 300,000 [gallons per day]. It's such an easy mark.”

The ordinance would apply just about everywhere in the city — except the University of Utah campus — which is a state entity — and the city’s northwest quadrant.

The city entered into a development agreement with two landowners that locks that area into the city’s 2018 zoning code.

Deeda Seed, an organizer with the Center for Biological Diversity, said this is a good step. But it’s not quite enough.

“There’s huge concern about the undeveloped 7,000 acres that exist north of I-80 and west of the airport and whether intensive water users will be allowed to develop there,” Seed said. “The city really needs to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

The council is scheduled to have a public hearing on the proposal on Dec. 7.

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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