How the water market in Northern Utah works

Tuesday , April 18, 2017 - 5:00 AM

LEIA LARSEN, Standard-Examiner Staff

Water distribution along the Wasatch Front has its own market.

Utah’s economy bloomed with agriculture and the distribution of water in the state, starting with the arrival of the Mormon pioneers. Water is still lifeblood for many who depend on it to make a living, like the onion, alfalfa and hay farmers in Hooper. Non-profit irrigation companies like the Hooper Irrigation Co. still divvy up water rights into equal shares like they did before statehood. 

RELATED: Where does Weber Water go on the Wasatch Front?

Like stocks on Wall Street, water shares can be bought and sold, but their price is variable — it depends on supply and demand.

In the last two years, Hooper Irrigation Co. shares sold for between $7,500 to $10,000. A Hooper Irrigation Co. share amounts to about 2.5 acre-feet, around enough water to cover a football field to a depth of 30 inches.

But shares sizes differ at each irrigation company.

For the Davis and Weber Counties Canal Co., a share is around 6 acre-feet. The going market for those shares is $20,000 to $25,000, according to General Manager Rick Smith. Shareholders pay an annual assessment of $250 per share to the company.

A farmer will use shares to irrigate fields, while a developer will use shares to set up a secondary water system.

Most secondary customers throughout Northern Utah pay a flat rate for their outdoor water since it’s hard to meter. Hooper Irrigation Co. secondary customers, for example, pay $360 to $442 a year for their water, depending on lot size.

Much of our water infrastructure in the region, however, is also paid for through general taxes like sales and property taxes. Some argue that hides the true price of urban water, since the cost of providing it isn’t fully reflected in a water bill. 


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