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Management of Water Quality in Utah

Protecting Utah’s Water Resources From Pollution

Clean water is Utah’s most precious resource. The Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Division of Water Quality uses the Watershed Approach to protect and improve Utah’s surface and groundwater resources.

This approach includes a high level of stakeholder involvement, water quality monitoring and information gathering, problem targeting and prioritization, and integrated solutions. It makes use of multiple agencies, groups, and local citizens.

Federal and state regulations charge the Division with “preventing, controlling, and abating” water pollution. The state makes use of partnerships formed with local agencies and stakeholders to pool their resources, increase the effectiveness of water quality programs, and help implement them.

The Watershed Approach

Each watershed planning process is directed by a locally led and sponsored steering committee. Members are usually policymakers and landowners from the local, state, and regional levels. The committee sets the direction, and a technical advisory committee provides staff support.

Each watershed is considered as a unit. Water quality monitoring plans are developed to direct the collection of data or evaluate the success of implementation projects in achieving specific targets. Each steering committee develops its own watershed plan, identifying the maximum amount of pollutants that can be present in a stream, lake, or reservoir without impairing beneficial uses.

Animal Feeding Operations

During the past 30 years, the federal Clean Water Act has been directed primarily at controlling or eliminating point sources of pollution from cities and industries. Most remaining water quality problems are due to non-point sources of pollution, including agricultural sources. Larger animal feeding operations have led to water quality problems that are now addressed by a national strategy developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Some of Utah’s remaining water quality problems are due to pollutants from animal feeding operations. Improved management of manure is necessary to reduce this pollution.

Utah has developed an effective state strategy in collaboration with the agricultural community to address and implement national water quality requirements through neighborhood solutions. Incentives and technical assistance are provided to allow voluntary correction of problems. Permitting is reserved to address problems that are not voluntarily corrected. Comprehensive nutrient management plans are developed for the specific conditions of each farm, avoiding a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Implementation Activities to Protect Utah’s Water Resources

Implementation activities may include:

  • Elimination or Treatment of Runoff Waters from Urban, Agricultural, or Other Lands
  • Development of Local Planning Policies to Control a Variety of Sources of Pollutants
  • Implementation of Best Management Practices to Reduce or Control Movement of Pollutants From Animal Feeding Operations
  • Restoration of Streams and Riparian Corridors
  • Treatment of Uplands to Stabilize Soils
  • Development of Educational Programs