Water Quality
2019 State of the Environment Report

The Division of Water Quality (DWQ) protects surface and groundwater through programs designed to protect, maintain, and enhance the quality of Utah’s waters. To ensure that the state’s waters meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act and Utah Water Quality Act, DWQ:

  • Develops water-quality standards.
  • Issues discharge permits, inspects facilities, and enforces compliance of permit requirements.
  • Provides funds for projects that address nonpoint sources of pollution.
  • Develops water-quality standards to protect Utah waters from pollution.
  • Monitors and assesses Utah waters.
  • Develops watershed protection plans to bring impaired waters back into compliance with water-quality standards.
  • Responds to spills.
  • Provides construction assistance through loans and grants.
  • Partners with the Utah Department of Health and local health departments to address water quality and health issues.

Water Infrastructure Investments

Water-quality improvements can carry significant costs, which is why DWQ provides low-cost and no-cost funding for wastewater infrastructure and water-quality projects in the state. The Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF) receives, on average, a combined $8 million each year from state and federal funding, with an additional $15 million, on average, from loan repayments. The financial assistance program helps communities leverage or supplement funding for water-quality improvement activities.

Wastewater treatment plant construction and upgrades are vitally important for reducing the nutrient pollution in Utah waters from population growth. The state’s aging wastewater treatment infrastructure, stricter water-quality standards to protect Utah waters, and population growth mean many communities will continue to turn to DWQ’s low- or no-cost funding program for assistance with plant upgrades and construction.

Investments in Water Quality Infrastructure
Water Bodies Measured: 68% Assessed, 32% of those in Good Condition

Monitoring and Assessment

Under the Clean Water Act, DWQ is required to protect the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of state waters. The Monitoring Section monitors all surface waters, including lakes and reservoirs, streams (wadeable and non-wadeable), wetlands, and some groundwater to assess the quality of these water resources so DWQ can protect them for their beneficial uses, such as drinking water, recreation, agriculture, and aquatic life.

Water-quality monitoring programs provide data to support DWQ’s efforts to develop and refine water-quality standards, report on water-quality conditions, list impaired waters, issue and enforce discharge permits, manage nonpoint sources of pollution, protect high-quality waters, set priorities for water-quality management, track changes in water quality over time, and evaluate the effectiveness of restoration and protection actions.

Nonpoint Source Pollution Program

Sediment Cumulative Load Reduction tons/year

Nonpoint-source (NPS) pollution can come from a number of sources, including streets, parking lots, agricultural lands, and construction sites. NPS pollution can include:

  • Excess fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides from agricultural lands
  • Sediment from erosion or construction activities
  • Bacteria and nutrients from livestock, pets, and septic systems

The NPS program provides funding to improve the water quality of impaired waterbodies through a voluntary, incentive-based approach. Cooperators receive financial assistance to offset the cost of implementing projects that protect and improve water quality. Projects use Best Management Practices (BMPs) and follow the watershed-based planning strategy. Because nutrient pollution is one of the primary causes of waterbody impairments, many of the funded projects are designed to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus loading into Utah waterways.


Permit Holders Compliance: 74%

The Division of Water Quality issues permits to facilities that discharge into surface or groundwater. These permits address water pollution by establishing limits for pollutants that can be discharged into a receiving water. Stormwater discharge permits are required for certain construction projects, industrial facilities, and municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s).

Surface and groundwater discharge permits include detailed requirements, including compliance with effluent limits or groundwater protection levels, monthly and quarterly effluent or groundwater sampling, reporting, and other performance measures.

Harmful Algal Blooms

HABs Infographic

Success Story: Interest Rate Buy-Down Program Helps Agriculture, Water Quality

The Agricultural Resource Development Loan (ARDL) program, administered by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF), provides low-interest loans to eligible farmers and ranchers for projects that reduce water pollution. This year, the Division of Water (DWQ) and UDAF partnered to allow DWQ to “buy down” the principal interest rate of half of the Agricultural Resource Development Loans (ARDL), effectively making them zero-interest loans. The buy-down program assists Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs), Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), and dairies fund and implement projects that would otherwise pose an economic hardship to the operators.

If a proposed project meets the criteria for the ARDL Interest Rate Buy-Down Program, UDAF reduces the initial interest rate of the loan by half. If the Water Quality Board (WQB) determines that the project will result in significant water quality improvements, DWQ awards a grant to UDAF on behalf of the producer for the total amount of interest generated over a 15-year period. Once the project is complete, DWQ makes a one-time payment to UDAF of the predetermined interest total, which is used to pay down the ARDL loan held by the producer.

To date, three dairy operations have applied for the buy-down program and been accepted. Applicants range from a small, 4th-generation family farm to larger dairy operations. The projects will, for example, implement waste management practices that will minimize pollution from storage facilities, confinement facilities, and land application.

The buy-down program is another example of DWQ’s collaborative approach and commitment to finding win-win solutions for water-quality issues in the state.