Understanding Amendment D
What the Amendment Would Do:
The proposed amendment to the Utah Constitution would clarify how cities can supply water to neighboring communities, individual consumers and others outside of cities’ boundaries.
Many cities in the State provide water to customers who reside outside of the municipal boundaries. For decades, Salt Lake City has provided water to customers who resided outside City boundaries. These customers lived in unincorporated Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City was well positioned to provide them water. Much of the City’s water was coming from the canyons close to the customers living in the County. Salt Lake City invested in securing the water resources and infrastructure to serve this area to help promote the public health and economic success of the region. Over time, many of these customers became residents of Millcreek, Holladay, Cottonwood Heights, South Salt Lake, Murray, and Midvale, but Salt Lake City continued to be the water service provider.
Cities that provide water outside of their boundaries have been limited in how they can assure access to water for their non-resident customers because of Utah Constitution, Article XI, Section 6, which limits how cities can sell water outside of their boundaries. As a result, cities have provided such water on a ‘surplus basis’, which means that such customers have inferior access rights to water. Amendment D will allow the cities to provide equal access to water to all customers within a designated service area.
What Happens After the Vote?
If a majority of the voters approve the Amendment, it will become effective on the January 1, 2021. Salt Lake City will then begin the process to establish its designated service area according to the requirements of State law. This will be done in collaboration with Salt Lake County and the cities within the water service area. A designated service area map will be approved by the Salt Lake City Council and a public hearing will be conducted for all the City’s water customers to comment on the process and the final recommendation made to the Council.
If I live outside of Salt Lake City and I’m a water customer, what changes should I expect if the Amendment is approved?
Practically, not much will change. The City has been committed to provide the same quality of water service to both its city and county customers. Customers in the City’s designated service area will know they have access to the City’s drinking water. For example, customers outside of the City would not have different restrictions on water use during times of water shortages.
If the Amendment is approved, should I expect the amount I pay for water to change?
Likely, no. Approximately every five years, the City goes through a lengthy rate setting process that evaluates many factors that go into the appropriate rate to charge the City’s water customers. This process involves many opportunities for input from all of the City’s water customers and the Salt Lake City Council approves the rates though its public budgeting process. These steps are not likely to be modified if the Amendment is approved.
I live in Salt Lake City and if the Amendment is approved, will it be bad for me?
No. Salt Lake City’s water system is a fully integrated system both inside and outside of the City. For years, the City has been working hard to treat all its water customers in Salt Lake Valley the same. All of our community benefits from people having access to safe and clean water.
If the Amendment isn’t approved, am I at risk of having my water shut off because I don’t live in the City?
No. Salt Lake City has always been committed to assure that water will be provided uninterrupted to its county customers living in the Salt Lake valley. Some have been told that the City’s service agreement with these customers has a provision that allows the City to terminate water service on 30 days’ notice. This is not accurate, and the City has no intent to terminate water service to these customers.
For customers who use City water in the canyons, will things change if the Amendment is approved?
Likely, no. Years ago, the Salt Lake City Council adopted the City’s Watershed Ordinance, which governs the sale of surplus water in the watershed. Since the passage of that ordinance, the City Council has stated on many occasions that there is no interest in changing the City’s practices for sale of water in the watershed and it is not expected that this will change if the Amendment is approved.