Nutrient Pollution
2018 State of the Environment Report (WQ)

Panguitch Lake northeast shore on September 13, 2018

Excess nitrogen and phosphorus in waterbodies, known as nutrient pollution, is a growing problem in Utah and across the country. Nutrients are linked to cyanobacterial growth, including harmful algal blooms, and can lower dissolved-oxygen levels in waterbodies, adversely affecting aquatic life. This pollution comes from a variety of sources, including wastewater treatment plants, nonpoint source pollution from agricultural operations, and residential and municipal stormwater runoff. Nutrient pollution poses a significant threat to Utah’s economic growth and quality of life, leading to substantial costs to the state and taxpayers if left unaddressed.

The state is actively engaged in developing values-based environmental solutions to address excess nitrogen and phosphorus in Utah waters. These values include:

  • Accountability: Track progress and use public funding efficiently
  • Equity: Ensure incentives treat Utah’s rural, urban, and growing communities fairly
  • Flexibility: Accommodate the different needs of Utah’s diverse waters
  • Strategic investment: Accommodate growth and a changing Utah landscape

Nutrient Pollution Strategy

Past efforts have focused on headwaters and the largest controllable sources of nutrients in the state. A DWQ administrative rule requiring all wastewater treatment plants to monitor for nitrogen and phosphorus went into effect in 2015. This monitoring requirement allows the division to characterize the magnitude of the state’s nutrient pollution problem and helps ascertain how the division’s nutrient-reduction strategy is working.