By DEQ Communications Office
The Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) wants residents to know that their public water supply is safe. In the case of quarantine or outbreak related to the coronavirus, public drinking water systems are designed to continuously deliver safe drinking water to your tap.
“Drinking water treatment and disinfection has effectively protected Utah’s population for many decades. These protections will safeguard residents against drinking-water-borne viral infections—including coronavirus,” says Marie Owens, Director of DEQ’s Division of Drinking Water. “There is no need for residents to stock up on surplus bottled water in preparation for a potential outbreak of coronavirus.”
In Utah, public water systems treat and disinfect surface water through a process called chlorination. Chlorination is the process of adding chlorine to drinking water to disinfect it. This process kills multiple pathogens and water-borne viral infections that can affect human health.
Chlorine was first used in the U.S. to treat drinking water in 1908 in Jersey City, New Jersey. Chlorine treated drinking water became more and more common throughout the 20th century.
By the 1990s about 64% of all public water systems in the U.S. used chlorine to disinfect their water.
While chlorine could be harmful in high doses, when it is added to water, it mixes in and spreads out, resulting in low levels that kill viruses and pathogens but is still safe to drink.
Ensuring safe water is available requires a lot of work and infrastructure. Failure of a public water system during an emergency could spell disaster. Your public water system prepares for natural disasters and pandemic emergencies. The most important step the water systems takes is in creating emergency response plans. This plan evaluates critical functions and how those would be covered in case of a disaster or pandemic situation.
At DDW, we make sure all water systems throughout the state are keeping their water safe and maintaining their systems in a way that prevents accidents and contamination. A water system, depending on the population size of the area served, is required to have a Certified Operator oversee the process of providing safe water to your tap.
Clean water does not magically appear. It is not as simple as running a pipe from a water source to your home. The systems in place providing us with clean drinking water are complex, and they are constantly in motion to safeguard you and maintain a steady supply of safe water for all of us to drink and use.