Drinking Water
2021 State of the Environment Report

The Division of Drinking Water (DDW) protects drinking water by supporting the safe design and operation of Utah’s public drinking water systems. Its goal is to provide safe drinking water at every tap in every building in Utah. The Division does this by working cooperatively with drinking water professionals and the public to ensure a safe and reliable supply of drinking water. 

DDW responsibilities include:

  • Inspecting  water facilities
  • Initiating  enforcement actions
  • Reviewing  engineering and source protection plans
  • Issuing approvals and operation permits for drinking water systems
  • Construction funding and technical assistance for drinking water systems
  • Responding to emergencies affecting drinking water
  • Overseeing cross-connection programs

“The Rural Water Association of Utah is proud of the partnership we enjoy with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. In particular, our close relationships with the Division of Drinking Water and the Division of Water Quality results in water and wastewater systems throughout the state knowing that they have help and assistance available to them. Whether it be a regulatory compliance issue, a training need,  an issue related to drought, an infrastructure development need or any of the other myriad of issues that face these systems, assistance is there for them. Working together our association and the state agencies have one common goal, the health and welfare of the citizens of Utah.”

–Dale Pierson
Executive Director
Rural water Association of Utah

99.9 % of population served by an approved water systems (community PWS)
93.27 % of public water systems currently maintain Division Approval

Success Story: Resiliency Through Partnership–Navigating Extreme Drought and Drinking Water 

The extreme drought of 2021 brought many challenges for drinking water systems, especially smaller systems and those that rely on natural spring sources. During drought conditions, drinking water systems experience challenges with both water supply and degraded water quality. 

To address these challenges, DDW worked with water systems that experienced water quality challenges from springs running dry, fire damaged infrastructure, increased demand on groundwater sources and storage tanks that resulted in loss of water pressure or discontinued water service. The Division’s emergency response staff supported these systems in issuing boil orders, follow-up sampling, and site inspections to help identify potential contamination. 

In addition, Division staff aided numerous water systems struggling to maintain drinking water supply in need of immediate approval to haul water, establish an emergency connection with a neighboring water system, implement a source blending plan, activate alternate drinking water sources, or access financial assistance through the State Revolving Fund. 

Drought can be especially challenging for our smaller rural systems like Lincoln Culinary Water Association in Tooele County that rely on a groundwater well to provide drinking water to the town. On the evening of June 30, Lincoln Culinary water system reached out to DDW with concerns they would run out of drinking water by the next day, even after requiring all residents to immediately stop outdoor water use. 

An irrigation company had a larger, deeper well near the Lincoln Culinary well that, when used, would draw-down the water table, causing the Lincoln Culinary well to run dry. The Division partnered with both the irrigation company and the larger neighboring drinking water system in Tooele City to support Lincoln Culinary in obtaining an approved emergency connection to the Tooele City water system. Alternate use days were implemented so both wells would not be drawing from the aquifer on the same day. This collaborative effort improved Lincoln Culinary water supply and they were able to continue to provide drinking water to their residents.

In addition to the water shortages Utah systems faced in 2021, larger surface water treatment systems were challenged with quickly adapting to the shortage of treatment chloride-based treatment chemicals due to supply chain issues. Once DDW became aware of the shortage, they notified water systems and helped them evaluate how many days of on-site supply they currently had, worked with local chemical suppliers to help prioritize available supply for local municipal demand, and provided guidance on alternative solutions. 

Systems that serve large populations produce millions of gallons of clean drinking water per day, and typically have only a few weeks of chemical storage on-site during the peak summer months. Ogden City, Metropolitan Water District, and Salt Lake City water systems all use chlorine-based treatment chemicals, but once the shortage became apparent, they immediately had to switch to non-chloride based approved treatment chemicals. These changes require DDW approval, and the Division prioritized the review of chemical change requests and worked with our water systems to ensure the chemical change would not impact drinking water quality. Thanks to this collaborative effort, five chemical change operating permits were quickly authorized and Utahns served by these systems had clean, reliable drinking water despite the shortage.