CEDAR CITY — Cedar City acquired an additional 520 acre-feet of water rights for over $5.3 million.

This file photo shows the Cedar City Offices, Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 11, 2023 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

At the Jan. 24 City Council meeting, the city approved an agreement with DJT Resorts and Hospitality to purchase the water rights for $5,330,000 million — $10,250 per acre-foot.

City Manager Paul Bittmenn said rights will be transferred to the city via a warranty deed from the Hardin Family Trust — the original owner — to DJT and then to the city at a mutually agreed-upon title company before Feb. 29.

The city agreed to pay half the closing costs and will be responsible for obtaining any additional title insurance or endorsements that could be required, according to the council packet.

The water rights were issued in April 1934 and earlier. This includes 93.32 acre-feet of rights dated with only the year, but according to the packet, the Utah State Engineer’s Office would consider them as having been issued on Jan. 1, 1934. Because of this, all the rights purchased by the city would be considered “safe yield.”

Safe yield water rights are not subject to cuts under the office’s water management plan for Basin 73, which affects Cedar City, Cedar City News reported. The management plan reduces the amount of water that can be depleted to establish safe yield limits — the amount of groundwater that can be withdrawn from the valley’s aquifer sustainably.

Beginning in 2035, those issued after 1957 will be unavailable to use. By 2080, those with issue dates after 1934 will also be regulated. But if the basin reaches safe yield, future reductions will not be implemented.

In this file photo, Coal Creek is dusted with snow, Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 30, 2023 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

During the 2023-24 fiscal year, the city spent nearly $35 million to purchase water rights. For instance, the city purchased over 942 acre-feet of water from LeBaron Ranch Holdings for about $11.4 million in September. The rights received include some of the valley’s oldest, with 90% dated 1860, Cedar City News Reported.

Additionally, the council approved a nearly $13 million agreement with Enterprise’s Holt Family of the Escalante Farms Company to buy 1000 acre-feet of water rights from Basin 71. The basin covers Enterprise, Beryl and Milford, among other areas.

To fund the most recent acquisition, the city approved a budget revision, moving approximately $3.3 million from the Capitol Improvement Fund into the Water Fund, City Finance Director Jason Norris said, adding that there was $2 million remaining in the account after previous purchases.

“We’ll put that together, and that’s how we’ll buy these water rights,” he said.

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