The Source of Utah’s Drinking Water
Utah’s drinking water comes from either surface water (lakes, reservoirs, rivers) or ground water (wells or springs), altogether 1,850 sources. Utah’s larger cities generally use surface water and wells while its small towns depend on springs that serve the system all year long, supplemented by wells during the summer months.
Treating Drinking Water
Water from wells very rarely requires treatment or disinfection; springs require treatment 90 percent of the time; and all surface water requires filtration and disinfection in order to make it safe for use in a public water system.
The most common disinfection used in Utah is chlorine, which is added at the treatment plant. Chlorine kills germs, but it does not harm humans directly.
Water From the Tap
It is safe to drink water right from the tap from any of Utah’s 978 public drinking water systems. Nearly 100 percent (99.7 percent) of Utah’s population drink water from an approved source. Chlorine-treated water is safe to drink, although some people object to the taste and odor. The Division of Drinking Water (DDW) works with water utilities to adjust chlorine levels to minimize objectionable tastes and odors.
Utah has a rating system for every public water supply. Of the public water systems in Utah, over 90 percent have an approved rating. Small water systems (serving less than 3,300 population) have the most trouble meeting monitoring frequency standards. Records are not kept on the quality of private wells. All but 0.1 percent of the community water systems have source protection plans.
On the rare occasions when systems develop deficiencies and do not meet required standards, the DDW requires that the public be notified through newspapers, posted notices at small systems, and/or direct consumer billing notices. If the water becomes contaminated to a dangerous level, a “boil” order is issued by the water system. All users of that water supply must boil water for at least two minutes to make it safe to drink.
Drinking From Streams and Reservoirs in Remote Areas of Utah
No. Surface waters often contain giardia (gee-AR-dee-uh), a microbe that causes a disease called giardiasis (gee-ar-DI-uh-sis). Giardiasis is characterized by severe diarrhea that may last several weeks. Disease-causing bacteria and cysts from wildlife feces may also be present in streams, rivers, and lakes.