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What to know about spring runoff and its impacts on water quality

Record snowfall brings concern for spring flooding

Utah is having a record-breaking snow year – according to the latest report from Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), we have surpassed the previous record of 26 inches of snow water equivalent (SWE). While the record precipitation is good news for the state’s ongoing drought, and waterbodies like the Great Salt Lake, the Division of Water Quality is concerned about flooding and contaminated water due to heavy spring runoff.

During floods, it is best to assume that all flood water is contaminated. Flood water can be contaminated with bacteria and viruses, chemicals from industrial production, petroleum products, or agricultural waste. During floods stormwater infrastructure can become overwhelmed, leading to contamination from motor oil, fertilizer, animal waste and other water pollutants as they are flushed from paved surfaces.

Flooding can also overwhelm drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, leading to sewage backups in homes or at wastewater facilities, and making water treatment more challenging.

How to keep yourself and your family safe

Flood waters can contain bacteria, viruses and parasites that may cause illness. Keep yourself and your family safe by following these guidelines:

  • If possible, avoid contact with flood water: If contact is unavoidable, wash your hands with clean soap and water, cover any open wounds with waterproof bandages, and disinfect it after coming into contact with the water.
  • Avoid recreational waters impacted by flooding: Wait at least 48-72 hours to recreate in waters after a flood or significant rainstorm.
  • Do not consume water that does not look, smell, or taste normal: While some changes in drinking water taste, smell, or appearance are normal throughout the year, if your area has been impacted by a flood, err on the side of caution and avoid consuming drinking water that is “off.” Also, do not wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, wash your hands, make ice, or make baby formula with the water.
  • If you suspect flooding has caused contamination to a water body or drinking water, surface or culinary water, contact the 24-hour DEQ spill line at (801) 536-4123.

Stay informed: State and local agencies will work together to inform those potentially affected by contamination as soon as possible.

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