Water systems that serve 25 or more people for more than 60-days annually or have 15 or more residential connections year-round are subject to Utah Public Drinking Water Rules and must obtain a permit known as an approval. DDW regulates over 1,000 public water systems in the state, and the Permitting Section ensures these water systems comply with state rules to ensure a safe drinking-water supply for the residents who use these systems. The Permitting Section houses two programs: the Engineering Review Program and the Source Protection Program.
Water User Data Collection
The Utah Legislature enacted revisions to the Utah Safe Drinking Water Act in 2018 that imposed new water-use data requirements on public water systems. The systems must collect and report water-use data to the state as well as specify the type of data reported. The revisions also require DDW to use these water-use data to establish system-specific source and storage minimum-sizing requirements. The system-specific requirements will replace current statewide standards and be phased in over time.
Under the new legislation, community water systems serving 500 or more people must collect and report actual water- use data to the Division of Water Rights (DWRi) annually. Required water-use data include:
- Peak day source demand: the total source flow into the system to meet the demand of a public water system on the day of highest water consumption in a calendar year.
- Average annual demand: the total quantity of drinking water produced and delivered to a public water system within a calendar year from its sources.
- Number of retail equivalent residential connections (ERCs): the total number of equivalent residential connections (ERCs) of a water system’s retail customers
- Quantity of non-revenue water: the difference between the “average annual demand” minus the water volume that is metered for billing purposes within a public water system in a year.
DDW must set system-specific minimum-source and storage sizing requirements based on actual water-use data to replace existing statewide minimum sizing standards.
Drinking-Water Storage Requirement
A public water system needs to operate properly and maintain adequate water pressure and supply even when its water-source capacity cannot meet peak demand needs placed on it. Adequate storage volume for drinking water is critical to protecting public health, especially in existing water systems with aging infrastructure that is susceptible to contamination. Adequate storage volume should also be included in the planning and design of future subdivisions or developments.
Utah’s water systems are required to provide water storage for equalization, fire suppression, and emergencies. Requirements include:
- Minimum-equalization storage: storage volume to compensate for the difference between the source capacity and the peak demand of a water system
- Fire-suppression storage: required volume determined by an individual water system.
- Emergency storage: volume determined by an individual water system. Optional
Regulatory criteria for minimum storage vary from state to state. Utah sets the minimum equalization storage requirement at a value equivalent to an average-day demand. However, each water system must evaluate its system-demand pattern, source capacity and reliability, system configuration, and unique operational needs.
Engineering Review Program
Engineering staff review and approve drinking water-related projects received from public water systems or their consultants. These reviews verify conformance with existing state rules and common engineering practices to ensure a safe and reliable supply of drinking water. The engineering review team works hard to ensure that the design and construction of drinking-water facilities conform to regulations and common engineering practices.
Success Story: Approval of Water Line Standard Installation Drawings and Specifications
The engineering review team is always looking for ways to streamline its processes to optimize limited staff resources and provide customers with excellent service. The Governor’s Office of Management and Budget recognized the DDW engineering program several years ago for its efforts in using the SUCCESS Framework program to achieve a 20 percent improvement in the efficiency of its work and services to ensure Utah residents have clean drinking water.
The engineering program continues to find ways to streamline its processes and improve its customer service. During 2018, DDW ended the Plan Submittal Waiver Program for waterline installation and adopted a new program in its place. The new program allows water systems to install certain water transmission and distribution lines without plan review by using DDW-approved standard installation drawings and specifications.
This new rule replaced an existing waiver program with a new program designed to reduce the regulatory burden associated with waterline construction. The new rule allows a public water system with approved waterline installation standards to install waterlines up to 16 inches in diameter without waivers, plan approvals, or operating permits. Additional program highlights include:
- Approved standards are good for five years.
- A simple, one-page application streamlines the process.
- There is no lag time in construction for plan review.
- Design standard review improves and standardizes installation drawings for the system.
So far, 49 water systems have received approval under the new rule. This rule revision substantially reduces the workload for both DDW and water systems. DDW engineering staff are actively reaching out to water systems and encouraging them to apply and have their waterline standards approved by DDW. The Division anticipates its workload and efficiency will continue to improve as more water systems receive this approval.
Source Protection Program
The Source Protection Program is the first line of defense for safe, clean drinking water. Surface water (streams, rivers, and lakes) or groundwater (springs and wells) can serve as sources of drinking water. Source water provides water for public drinking water supplies and private water wells.
Public water systems are required to establish a source protection plan for every active source of drinking water. The plan establishes source protection zones (source recharge areas), identifies potential contamination sources, and identifies ways to minimize the risk of accidental contamination. These sources can include:
- Underground or above-ground storage tanks (e.g., petroleum storage tanks)
- Residential or commercial septic systems
- Pesticides or fertilizers applied to agricultural lands
Source protection assessments and plans help water systems define and implement management strategies for potential contamination sources and prevent new contamination in the source area.
Septic Systems and Groundwater Recharge
Septic systems in groundwater recharge areas can lead to contamination of source waters. Increased growth in sensitive areas has brought into question the ability of water operators to adequately protect drinking-water sources from contamination from septic systems. For example, development in valley benches and high mountain valleys can harm important recharge areas for drinking-water sources. Rapid growth in areas requiring septic systems can lead to contamination of source waters. Aging septic systems have higher costs and risks of failure, and these failures can introduce pollution into aquifers.
By design, septic systems introduce biological and chemical contaminants to the subsurface for treatment and disposal. Septic systems rely on natural processes to safely treat these pollutants, and high wastewater volumes and concentrated development can undermine this treatment. Keeping source waters free from contamination is vital for the protection of current and future uses, including drinking water.
More than 90 municipalities and 16 counties have passed land-use ordinances prohibiting certain activities, including septic systems, within drinking-water source protection zones. The necessity to protect drinking water sources often clashes with citizens’ rights to develop or build on their property.
Possible solutions include:
- Incentives for counties and water districts to evaluate regional septic-system densities that are protective of water supplies
- Planning for quality growth
- Protection and management of important recharge areas and source waters
- Support for public management of septic systems in recharge areas through septic-tank-density studies
Revised Total Coliform Rule (RTCR) Level 2 Assessments
All water systems are required to sample for total coliform (TC) bacteria each month. If samples are positive, the system must conduct a self-inspection to determine the cause of contamination. If the samples are positive two months during a rolling 12-month period or have E. coli (EC) bacteria, DDW is required to do a Level 2 Assessment of the water system.
DDW identified 78 water systems in 2018 that required Level 2 Assessments. Some of the water systems had multiple months of unsatisfactory samples, which indicate bacteriological problems persisting for an extended period of time. Some of the water systems had a history of bacteriological problems which had reoccurred for decades.
Resolution to bacterial contamination may include correcting physical deficiencies of the system, making modifications or reconstructing parts of the system, adding an approved disinfection process, changing management or sampling procedures, and on-site training opportunities. Actions involved with making these corrections include collaboration between all sections of DDW, including Compliance, Engineering, and Field Services. All water systems, large and small, can experience bacteriological contamination.
Success Story: Oakley City Water System
DDW determined that the previous operator of the Oakley City Water System had been masking positive bacteriological samples for years by placing powdered chlorine into the spring and storage tanks. Stagnant water was observed in another storage tank. Water flowed out of open electrical conduits in the casing of one of the wells after the pump turned off. This well was used by a bottling company that sent “Artesian Water” overseas to China. It was later determined when the well was finally fixed following years of use and previous sanitary surveys, that the “O” rings had failed.
The new operator had very little knowledge of the system layout. The Mayor of Oakley attended the Level 2 Assessment where DDW was able to stress the need to resolve all the problems with the system.
The well was repaired, a new surface was installed on the failing tank, and the piping to the stagnant tank was rerouted to allow proper circulation of the water. Roots in the spring collection area were removed. The Rural Water Association of Utah (RWAU) assisted with the work and corrections.
The system has had satisfactory bacteriological samples since the corrections were completed and no longer needs to batch chlorinate (9 MB) the water.
Success Story: Well Contamination at a Church
DDW learned that the water system serving a church contained E. coli. Operators stated that they only had bacteriological contamination after it rained. The well was shallow and had many unidentified pipes and an unapproved pump. The well had previously been free-flowing (artesian) but had stopped flowing due to possible drought impacts. The storage tank had a hole in it that had been repaired.
The water system worked with DDW Engineering to drill a well 60 feet deeper and ensure it was properly sealed. A pump and hydropneumatic tank were installed inside the basement of the church, and the unapproved pump, piping and damaged tank were removed.
Success Story: Restaurant Chlorination Procedures
Restaurant owners were instructed by local health department inspectors to add some Chlorox to the water system each month. The owners dumped Chlorox down the well, but there were numerous sources of contamination. For example, chickens ran free in a courtyard open to the well and dead mice were found inside and outside the building.
The owners worked with DDW to find a solution to these improper chlorination procedures. A pitless adapter was installed in the well and the vault was cleaned, secured, and made capable of draining.
Success Story: Rest Stop Drinking Water Contamination
Drinking water at a rest stop was found to be swimming with mosquito larvae. DDW trained the operators on how to properly operate a water system. The water tank was drained and cleaned, all openings to the tank were sealed, the wellhead was properly secured and sealed, and the mechanical problems were fixed.
Success Story: Chlorine, Gophers, and E. Coli
In the spring, one water-system operator added chlorine to a drinking-water well to mask the levels of total coliform (TC) in samples. TC was detected in the well when the spring runoff came sooner than expected and the operator missed the window of contamination. The operator disturbed a massive gopher community to create a barrier wall to channel the surface runoff. The well had an open electrical conduit that sucked outside air into the casing when pump turned off, and E. coli was introduced into the water system.
The method of disinfection used by the operator created chlorine levels four times above the allowable maximum contaminant levels (MCLs). DDW taught the operator how to take chlorine residuals (230 KB) to ensure the appropriate chlorination levels needed to disinfect the water.
Success Story: Green Growth in the Storage Tank
Improper maintenance and positioning of a storage tank at the bottom of a ravine with little sunshine led to green growth in the water tank. The tank was cleaned and the air valve fixed. This particular situation had contaminated the system for many years before being identified by DDW and subsequently fixed by the system operator.