December 05, 2023

12/14: Public Hearing for Waterleaf Resources Water Right Application

The Utah Division of Water Rights is holding a public hearing for Waterleaf Resources' application for the non-comsumptive use of 225,000 acre-feet of water annually to supply a proposed lithium operation in the Great Salt Lake's North Arm.

When: Thursday, December 14, 2023, 11:00am

Where: Commission Chambers of the Box Elder County Courthouse located at 1 South Main Street, Brigham City, Utah 

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In July 2023, Waterleaf Resources submitted an application for the non-consumptive use of 225,000 acre-feet of water annually to supply a proposed lithium operation in the Lake’s North Arm near Robert Smithson's earthwork, Spiral Jetty. Waterleaf Resources, a subsidiary of California-based Lilac Solutions, claims their proprietary technology is water-neutral. They plan to use acid to extract lithium from the Lake’s brine, neutralize the water with alkaline additives, and discharge the water back into the Lake. 

Read more about their proposed process in this article from the Salt Lake Tribune & Great Salt Lake Collaborative: New lithium company wants billions of gallons from Great Salt Lake, but says it will put it all back

There are many unanswered questions about the efficacy of this novel technology and its potential impact to the Lake's ecosystem.

Waterleaf Resources intends to build a pilot plant on the Lake’s North Arm in 2024. This will be a critical test for the technology’s physical and economic viability and its impact on the Lake.

Our Role

Since 1994, FRIENDS has worked to protect the Lake’s ecosystem by engaging in administrative processes with state agencies, independently verifying scientific claims, and, when necessary, making legal challenges on behalf of the Lake.

With this charge, FRIENDS filed a protest of Waterleaf Resources’ 225,000 acre-ft water right application. 

We argue that this application is premature, and it should not be considered until a pilot plant, with its own royalty agreement in place, has demonstrated the technology’s viability and ecological safety.

The State Engineer’s office will make a decision on the water right application following a public hearing on 12/14.

Each of these agency reviews represent an opportunity for public oversight. FRIENDS participates in these administrative processes to ensure they are rigorous in examining impacts to the Lake.

Our General Counsel, Rob Dubuc, and Executive Director, Lynn de Freitas, lead these efforts, fueled by the support of our members. Together, we preserve and protect Great Salt Lake.

Read our protest here.