Utah’s Prioritization 2.0: Approach for Restoration and Protection of Utah’s Waters

The Division of Water Quality (DWQ) is prioritizing waterbodies for water quality restoration and protection over the next 10 years. Restoration and protection planning will help facilitate robust and efficient monitoring, more effective partnerships, watershed group development, strategic implementation, and clarity in protecting and restoring Utah’s waters. DWQ has outlined our approach to the prioritization in Utah’s Prioritization 2.0: Approach to Restoration and Protection Of Utah’s Waters.

We used two tools to guide this effort:

  • Environmental Protection Agency’s Recovery Potential Screening (RPS) tool
  • A public survey on the uses and threats to water quality in Utah

We will use these tools to develop a preliminary list of waterbodies for future water quality restoration and protection plans and will seek input on the prioritization list from staff, state, federal, and local agencies, stakeholders, and the general public. This list will be finalized by September 2024 and incorporated into the Prioritization 2.0 document.

Stakeholder Survey

We distributed a water quality survey statewide in late 2023. The survey received over 500 responses, representing all major basins and rural (farming and not farming), suburban, and urban areas. The results show stakeholder priorities by basin, provide context about how Utahns are using water across the state, and answer questions about how communities shape their perceptions and opinions about water quality.

Survey findings

Clean sources of drinking water were chosen as the most important beneficial use by survey respondents. Water that supports fish and wildlife habitat ranked second overall. However, water for agricultural uses was ranked the second most important from rural-farming areas.

Survey respondents were primarily concerned with how water quality affects human health and aquatic ecosystems. While participants were less concerned about how water quality affects recreational and agricultural uses, rural farming respondents expressed significant concern regarding the impact of water quality on agricultural uses.

Survey results by major river basin, residential area type, and other demographics can be viewed using the interactive dashboard at the link below.

Recovery Potential Screening (RPS) Tool

The EPA developed the RPS tool to assist states in determining differences in watersheds that may impact their relative likelihood of being protected, successfully restored, or managed in more beneficial ways. The tool allows users to compare watersheds more quickly and efficiently while setting priorities for investing in restoration activities.

DWQ formulated scenarios focusing on beneficial uses (drinking water, recreation, aquatic life, agriculture, and the Great Salt Lake) of surface waters, environment justice concerns, tribal considerations, and protection of high-quality watersheds. Results were generated for Utah’s major river basins, and waterbodies were placed into different planning categories including those most suitable for Total Maximum Daily Loads, Watershed Plans, Nonpoint source geographic priority area designation, or Watershed Protection Plans.

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