Brian Steed talks with KVNU For the People host Jason Williams.

LOGAN — The 45-day Utah legislative session wrapped up last Friday night. They passed over 150 bills in the final 48 hours and a total of 591 bills throughout the session.

On KVNU’s For the People program on Monday, Brian Steed, executive director of the Janet Quinney Lawson Institute for Land, Water & Air at Utah State University, was our guest.

Steed is also the Commissioner for the Great Salt Lake, as appointed by the governor. He got to wear both hats, so to speak, at the Utah Legislature this year.  He said it was a good year for addressing the water situation and he thinks it was a few good years before that.

I think that the light bulb’s finally gone on, people understand that without water and water security, we’re really not to going to have the future that we all want here. We’ve focused on transportation, we focused on a bunch of other infrastructure, water’s got to be part of that conversation, and I think is getting some of that.

We didn’t see the huge investments, in terms of monetarily this year in water as we’ve seen, but we did see some substantial pieces of legislation and some real things to help the Great Salt Lake. So, on the whole, I’m putting it in the win column.”

Part of his job is to go speak truth to what’s being proposed. Steed worked very closely with local representative Casey Snider on Senate Bill 453 dealing with the Great Salt Lake and the mineral companies who are an important part of the economy on the lake.

“But they have this weird position in terms of water law, because they’re the last in the line and the water in the Great Salt Lake generally is held as its own source of water. And so, there was a presumption that they would be able to pump that water in perpetuity regardless of how low the lake got. This bill made some substantial amendments on how that works, and interestingly really brought the mineral companies to the table in a way that I hadn’t seen before.”

Steed said water truly is life here in the West and we don’t have a lot of it as other places have.

“Interestingly, last March I spent some time in Israel because we were trying to figure out how Israel, which is water scarce like Utah, has made good on their scarcity and they are actually in a place of water abundance now.

Part of that solution was educating kids to make sure they understood how much water’s worth, and how water can be saved. So, when you’re washing your hands at any public facility in Israel, there’s a little cartoon graphics saying ‘make sure you’re saving as much as you need’, which is kind of cool.”

When it comes to working with the legislature, Steed said by-and-large people are willing to listen and learn.

He feels empathy for legislators as they are bombarded by people vying for their attention, so you have to be persistent and understanding.

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