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Utah Lake

| Algal Blooms | Utah Lake Workgroup | Water Quality Work Plan |

Utah Lake is one of the largest natural freshwater lakes in the western United States. Snowpack runoff from the Wasatch Mountains, together with numerous small creeks and streams, are the primary sources for water to the lake. Primary inflows to Utah Lake include the American Fork River, the Provo River, Mill Race Creek, Hobble Creek, the Spanish Fork River, and Currant Creek, with the Provo River contributing the greatest flow. The Jordan River drains the lake northwards towards the Great Salt Lake. The lake’s proximity to the Provo-Orem metropolitan area makes it a popular spot for fishing, boating, sailing, and waterskiing.

Utah Lake is considered hypereutrophic, meaning it is overly rich in nutrients such nitrogen and phosphorous. Excessive concentrations of nutrients cause large seasonal algal blooms, low dissolved oxygen levels, elevated pH, and possible cyanotoxin production during harmful algal blooms. The lake is the receiving body for wastewater treatment plant effluent, industrial discharges, stormwater discharges, and nonpoint source runoff. Rapid growth and urban expansion within the watershed may be exacerbating these hypereutrophic conditions.

Under the Clean Water Act, states are required to identify surface waters that are not meeting their designated beneficial uses. Utah Lake exceeds state water-quality standards for the following beneficial uses:

  • Warm-water aquatic life
    Impairments: excess total phosphorus, PCB in fish tissue
  • Agriculture
    Impairment: high concentrations of total dissolved solids (TDSs)

The Division of Water Quality (DWQ) identified Utah Lake as impaired for recreational use in its Draft 2016 Integrated Report due to high levels of cyanobacteria that can lead to harmful algal blooms.