The Division of Drinking Water (DDW) is responsible for implementing programs that ensure safe and reliable drinking water throughout the state. Programs include:
- Source protection for drinking water supplies
- Financial assistance for construction or upgrades to water systems
- Engineering plan review
- Implementation of EPA water quality and monitoring requirements
- Community assistance with contamination issues
- Site inspections of public water systems
- Certification and training for system operators
Online training and testing offered by the division helps systems operators, particularly those in rural areas, obtain continuing education unit (CEU) credits and certification. DDW also makes extensive use of technology and planning tools to streamline its processes, increase operational efficiencies, and reduce costs.
“My experience with DDW has not been the typical government regulator. DDW has partnered with us on many challenging issues, and we have come together with solutions which have been for the benefit of public health and well-being of our water customers and consumers.”
–Scott Anderson, Woods Cross City Public Works Director
Drinking Water Contaminants
Lead contamination in Flint, Michigan’s drinking-water system heightened concerns among Utah residents about the possibility their drinking water contained lead as well. In addition, news stories about hexavalent chromium in Utah’s drinking water and high concentrations of cyanobacteria in a Price City drinking-water source added to these concerns. DDW was able to reassure residents that their water was indeed safe to drink and took the opportunity to raise media and community awareness about the work DDW does every day to ensure the safety of the state’s drinking water.
Lead can enter drinking water when corrosive water dissolves lead in pipes and pipe solder. The majority of Utah water sources provide non-corrosive, hard water to their customers, reducing or eliminating the possibility that lead in pipes will leach into drinking water. In addition, many of Utah’s water systems have removed or never installed lead pipes or lead-bearing materials in water distribution systems, including service lines that supply water from the water main to the meter and then the home.
Currently, 544 water systems in the state of Utah sample for lead. As of August 2016, all of the water systems sampled were in compliance with the lead action level of 0.015 milligrams per liter (mg/L). Earlier in 2016, testing from the past several years showed elevated lead levels in homes in Roy, Liberty, Garland City, La Sal School in Monticello, Park Valley School, and the Cedar Ridge Distribution Company. DDW worked with the water systems to notify homeowners and retest homes with elevated lead levels. Newer samples indicated that, in some cases, the levels were due to improper testing, and subsequent tests at all sites showed lead levels to be below the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) action level.
Hexavalent chromium (Chromium 6)
Chromium is a naturally occurring element commonly found in the earth’s crust. Chromium has multiple forms, and two of its most common forms have extremely different impacts on human and environmental health. Trivalent chromium, (chromium-3) is a nutrient essential to human health. Hexavalent chromium (chromium-6) occurs naturally in the environment, but it is also produced through industrial processes and can be released into the environment through leaching from industrial sites.
News reports about the presence of hexavalent chromium (chromium-6) in the drinking water in several northern Utah counties raised concerns among residents. However, levels found in the Davis, Weber, and Box Elder County drinking-water systems were below the California state standard, the only standard for chromium-6 in the country, and drinking water in all of the state’s water systems fall below the EPA’s total chromium maximum contaminant level.
A harmful algal bloom (HAB) in Scofield Reservoir (summer 2016) produced high levels of cyanotoxins that posed a potential risk to the Price City and Helper drinking-water supply. The Price City water system had to shut down its intake for a period of time and use alternative sources. The Price River Water Improvement District had recently installed ozone treatment equipment to reduce and remove algae in the event of a bloom. DDW is working closely with water systems that draw their source water from areas with the potential for blooms to ensure that they have the capacity to adequately treat water during future HAB events.
DDW provides financial assistance to drinking-water systems across the state. The following entities received loans and grants in 2016 to help ensure that these systems were able to provide Utah residents with safe drinking water.
Box Elder County
- Bear River Water Conservancy District
- Corinne City
- Plymouth Town
- Boulder Farmstead
- Big Water Town
- Greenwich Water Association
San Juan County
- San Juan Spanish Valley Special Service District
- Sterling Town
- Wales Town
- Koosharem (Sevier County)
- Lizard Bench Water Association
- Bridge Hollow Water Association
- Echo Mutual
- Eagle Mountain City
- Fairfield Water System
- North Fork Special Service District
- White Hills Water Company
- Interlaken Town Washington County
- Big Plains Water and Sewer Special Service District
- Springdale Town
- Virgin Town
- Hanksville Town
- Taylor-West Weber Water Improvement District
DDW administers two financial assistance programs: the State Revolving Fund (SRF) and the Federal State Revolving Fund (DWSRF). The state revolving fund program provides funding to political subdivisions such as cities, towns, and districts. Federal SRF funds are available for privately and publicly owned community water systems and nonprofit, non-community water systems.
State SRF assistance helps water systems plan, design, build and/or repair drinking water system infrastructure, much of it in rural areas of the state. Financial assistance is also available for engineering studies and master plans to determine community needs and identify best alternatives to correct system problems. During Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, the State of Utah authorized $797,500 to help drinking water systems prepare master plans or engineering studies and another $44.6 million to 18 drinking water systems for construction projects. In addition, financial assistance packages totaling approximately $9.98 million for 9 previously authorized water system improvement projects were finalized through loan closings or bond purchases.
Since 1983, approximately $364.15 million in SRF assistance has been awarded to 433 drinking water system improvement projects. DDW’s financial assistance programs can help bridge the gap between what a system has and what it needs, including compliance with regulations, increased water demand, or resolving an emergency situation.
Wales Town received $253,000 in emergency financial assistance to drill, equip, and connect a new well to the existing drinking water system. This new well will replace an older well that recently failed, leaving Wales Town with a significant source capacity shortage. The Board authorized a $253,000 construction loan at zero percent for 30 years with $126,000 in principal forgiveness. The total repayable amount will be $127,000.
Henrieville Town received a $325,000 construction grant as emergency financial assistance to replace the old, damaged transmission line from the Town’s drinking water source to its storage tanks as well as install new air release/vacuum relief valves along the new transmission line. Total project cost is estimated at $650,000. Henrieville Town will request the remaining funds from the Community Impact Fund Board.
Trenton Town has relied on spring water for its drinking water source for many years. A sudden, heavy rainstorm exposed a big problem with this source when the amount of water flowing from the spring suddenly increased, and dirty water showed up in the distribution system. Investigations following this event identified severe structural deficiencies and showed that the spring was improperly developed to meet current drinking-water standards. Additional investigations at nearby spring sources also revealed deficiencies in their construction as well. The Drinking Water Board authorized financial assistance for Trenton Town to redevelop their spring source, and the latest test indicates the redevelopment was successful.
The Taylor-West Weber Water Improvement District (TWWWID) was in the middle of extensive and expensive drinking water system improvements when sand suddenly began infiltrating an existing well, making it impractical to use. TWWWID approached the Drinking Water Board for financial assistance — in addition to the more than $7 million it had already obtained — to resolve this new emergency situation. The Board authorized funding for the District to drill a new well, and DDW staff worked with the district to expedite the availability of funds, which allowed the district to save money by using the contractor who was already onsite drilling a different well to also drill the replacement well.
The Elberta Water Company’s well contains arsenic above the EPA’s maximum contaminant level. Drilling a new well was impractical, and treatment to remove the arsenic was deemed too expensive for this small water system to undertake. That left blending the system’s high arsenic water with water that contained a lower arsenic level as the remaining solution. The Company identified a suitable nearby well, and the Division worked with Elberta, the city’s consulting engineer, and the owner of the existing well to develop an appropriate blending plan. The Drinking Water Board authorized financial assistance to the Company to install the required infrastructure to blend the source waters and bring Elberta’s drinking water into compliance with regulations.
Certification and Training
Certified Operator training and technical and engineering support, particularly for smaller rural water systems, are critical for the safe delivery of water to residents. Utah has 789 small water systems that serve less than 500 people. Since many operators of small water systems work on a part-time or voluntary basis, they depend heavily on DDW for technical assistance and training.
Proper training and certification safeguard water supplies by ensuring that water system operators are knowledgeable about operation and maintenance procedures as well as regulatory requirements. This protects the health and safety of customers served by these systems as well as the traveling public visiting or passing through the communities served by these water systems. Under Utah law, all community and non-transient non-community water systems must have a certified operator who is responsible for the proper operation and administration of their system. DDW’s operator certification program works in collaboration with local health departments and the Rural Water Association of Utah to administer written, oral, and online certification exams.
DDW also provides study guides and presentations to help applicants prepare for the certification exam. DDW’s Cross Connection Control program trains and certifies backflow technicians who ensure that water cross connections don’t allow contaminants to enter a drinking water system from back siphoning or back pressure. Once certified, operators are required to complete continuing education unit (CEU) credits to stay current on the latest technological and regulatory developments. DDW offers training screencasts online to help operators obtain CEU credits towards certificate renewals.
Energy Cost Savings Program
The water- energy nexus — water use in energy production and energy use in water delivery — has received more attention in recent years as public water systems look for ways to deal with rising energy costs. DDW has been at the forefront of these discussions, producing, with pro bono help from water utility personnel and consultants, its “Drinking Water Energy (Cost) Savings Handbook” that provides water system operators and managers with multiple strategies to reduce their energy costs. The 50-page handbook contains:
- A list of over 400 efficiency strategies that, if implemented, can cut a water system’s power costs
- Steps for obtaining the services of a qualified consultant
- Funding sources for implementing efficiency strategies
- Additional sources of information on the Internet, including how to conduct an energy audit
Cost savings from energy-efficiency measures can be used to keep water rates low, fund equipment upgrades, and meet changing regulatory requirements. The division, with the help of training partners, continues to promote this effort.
Continuous Improvement/SUCCESS Framework
DDW continues to develop strategies to improve the allocation of resources, improve performance, and implement innovations that advance quality, efficiency, and effectiveness. Federal funding has decreased in recent years and federal requirements have increased. Optimizing staff time and reducing costs has been a necessity as well as a top priority for the division and has led to impressive results.
Engineering Plan Review
Process improvements have increased the percentage of plan approvals and plan submittal waivers issued within 45 days of receipt of the initial engineering plan or request. Staff continues to promote plan-review waiver status for eligible water systems and submit waiver requests for engineering projects. Plan-review waivers save staff time and offer eligible water systems a way to fast-track projects. The team also leveraged existing resources to provide increased benefits to the public at a lower cost. Their hard work led to a 20 percent improvement in program efficiencies.
Engineering plan review improvements underway include:
- Development of engineering templates that integrate changes and updates across sections and offer comprehensive checklists of items that must be completed before plans are sent to the director of DDW for approval
- Improved fact sheets, checklists, and flow charts for various types of reviews to help those outside the agency understand expectations, and those inside the agency use a standardized review process that ensures consistency and quality
- Active marketing of plan review waivers to eligible systems
The division is trying to reduce the number of false Notice of Violations (NOVs) issued due to incorrect data. Improvements include:
- Better rule implementation through more timely compliance determinations
- Increased outreach to water systems, both online and through phone calls, to inform them of their monitoring requirements
- Data cleanup in the Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS) to minimize errors
Operator Certification Exams
DDW has saved staff hours by migrating from paper to online exams and streamlining the exam process. Improvements include:
- Forms to gather updated contact information and feedback to improve the exam process/experience
- Online training materials
- An automated system to remind operators when they need to renew their certification and the process they need to follow to renew
- Automated renewals for operators
Reminder Emails Electronic Calls and Hints (REECH) Alert System
DDW rolled out its REECH alert system this year to automate the process for notifying operators about certification renewals, upcoming trainings, or required sampling. Similar systems used in other states have reduced drinking water violations. For example, REECH looks through the division’s database to see which samples are due and initiates emails, phone calls, and text messages to remind the system and the operator about the samples. The alert system continues to send reminders until DDW receives the required samples. REECH can also be used in an emergency to provide information to customers about boil orders or updates on drinking-water contamination.
Five standard reports are now available online for each water system. These public water system reports are one of the most popular resources on the DEQ Website, providing public water systems with information on how the state identifies water-system elements, monitoring requirements, bacteriologic sample results, operator certification expiration dates, and continuing-education credits.
Data input from onsite inspections
Staff can now input information found during onsite inspections into handheld tablets that can be uploaded directly to DDW’s database. This streamlines the previous process, which required staff to handwrite field notes that were later entered into the office’s database.
Electronic data entry to labs
Some laboratories are able to transmit bacterial and chemical sampling test results electronically into DDW’s database, eliminating staff time spent reentering data into the database. DDW continues to work with laboratories to increase the amount of electronically transmitted data.
Geographic or administrative grouping of water systems for site inspections
By organizing regularly required site inspections into geographic or administrative groupings, DDW makes more efficient use of division personnel. Geographic grouping lets inspectors travel to sites located near each other and inspect all the water systems in the group in one day, saving travel time. By administratively grouping commonly owned or commonly managed water systems, DDW makes site inspections more convenient and efficient for both staff and common owners.
State Revolving Fund financial assistance is used to help plan, design, build and/or repair drinking water system infrastructure including water treatment plants, water transmission and distribution pipes, storage tanks, and drinking water sources (such as wells and springs). Financial assistance is also available for engineering studies and master plans to determine community needs and identify best alternatives to correct system problems.
During Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, the State of Utah authorized $797,500 to help drinking water systems prepare master plans or engineering studies and another $44,595,032 to 18 drinking water systems for construction projects. In addition, financial assistance packages totaling $9,975,740 for nine previously authorized water system improvement projects was finalized through loan closings or bond purchases.
- Authorized Planning Financial Assistance: $797,500
- Authorized Construction Financial Assistance: 18 projects
- $40,933,000 loan
- $3,602,032 grant/principal forgiveness
- $44,595,032 total financial assistance
- Closed Construction Financial Assistance: 9 projects
- $7,188,000 loan
- $2,787,740 grant/principal forgiveness
- $9,975,740 total financial assistance
Since 1983, approximately $364.15 million in SRF assistance has been awarded to 433 drinking water system improvement projects.
This year, through the Plan Review Program, DDW issued a total of 767 official correspondences (including approvals, operating permits, exceptions, assessments, and waivers). DDW processed a total of 1,248 submittals and added 379 new review projects that are related to public drinking water facilities.
From January 1, 2016 to Oct 26, 2016
- Public drinking water systems: 1028 (total)
- Transient: 484
- Community: 476
- Non-Transient: 68
- Source protection plans reviewed 2016 to date: 371
- Engineering plans of drinking water facilities reviewed: 451
- Implementation of water quality and monitoring requirements (number of analytical results received and processed into Safe Drinking Water Information System/State during FY 2016): 130,101
- Certified operators: 2415
- Backflow technicians: 878
- Inspections of water utilities: 210
- Enforcement actions: 1538