The Division of Water Quality regularly monitors and assesses our streams and lakes to ensure their designated beneficial uses are supported. Beneficial uses include drinking water, recreation (swimming and boating), aquatic wildlife, and agricultural use (irrigation and stock watering). For more information on please refer to State of Utah’s 305b Report to Congress, individual watershed assessments and the 303d List found on the Publications and Rules page.
In addition, water quality data are used to identify impaired waterbodies and establish water quality goals for implementing projects to restore or protect water quality.
The stream monitoring program consists of basin intensive and long-term water quality monitoring stations. The fixed-station monitoring network consists of 63 stations which are used to evaluate long-term water quality trends. Samples are collected every six weeks (eight times per year). The focus of intensive monitoring surveys are to determine if the streams are meeting their designated beneficial uses. The surveys also provide essential river and stream water quality assessment data to identify and quantify water quality problems and provide information for solutions to those problems.
Under the Division’s lake assessment program, 130 lakes are monitored for water quality on a regular basis. One-half of them are sampled during odd numbered years, the other half during even numbered years. They are sampled twice a year, May/June and August/September. The objectives of the State’s lake monitoring plan are to determine existing water quality conditions, evaluate lake water quality trends, protect and enhance lake water quality, and to determine beneficial use support.
Point Source Monitoring
Under the UPDES Program, water quality data are collected to do TMDLs. Before permits are renewed, applications must go through the TMDL process. Load allocations are calculated to determine levels, if any, that a water constituent can be discharged to a waterbody without affecting its beneficial uses. In addition, 197 industrial and municipal facilities are monitored to ensure that they are meeting their discharge permit limitations.
Total Maximum Daily Load Monitoring
Data are also collected to complete Total Maximum Daily Load analyses. Under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act each State is required to identify those waterbodies that are not supporting their beneficial uses. The TMDL process is used to determine the sources and amounts of pollution that are entering a waterbody. Calculations are then made to determine how much each source would have to reduce their input so that the waterbody meets the state water quality standards and support its beneficial uses.
Nonpoint Source Monitoring
Data have primarily been collected to determine background levels of water quality constituents. Data are being collected in several of the nonpoint source watersheds to try to determine the effectiveness of the projects that have been implemented. Traditional methods of monitoring the water chemistry are important, but stream function and biology are also important in determining the health of a stream. To this end the DWQ was instrumental in developing an interagency NPS Monitoring Workgroup in 1993 to evaluate the effectiveness of BMP practices and Sec. 319 watershed restoration projects in Utah. Data on the riparian zone vegetation, stream shape (geomorphology), fish habitat and fish populations are used to evaluate the effectiveness of BMP implementation. Currently there are five nonpoint watersheds in the state that are being evaluated and nonpoint source projects are being implemented in them. They include Little Bear River, Cache County; Chalk Creek, Summit County; Beaver River, Beaver County; Otter Creek, Piute and Sevier Counties; and Mill Creek, Salt Lake County.
Currently, the Division of Water Quality has memorandums of agreement with the U.S. Forest Service, Canyonlands National Park, Davis County, Utah Geological Survey, Jordanelle Technical Advisory Committee, Salt Lake City and the Bureau of Land Management to cooperate in the protection of the waters of the State. Water quality samples are collected by the agencies and the samples are processed in the State Health Laboratory.
Benthic Macroinvertebrate Sampling
Twelve sites are collected on four of the nonpont source projects. Samples are collected biannually in the spring and fall. Macroinvertebrate data supplements water chemistry data to evaluate water quality.
Beneficial use support is based primarily on comparison of water chemistry data against state water quality standards. Additional information, such as riparian habitat evaluations, stream channel habitat evaluations, benthic macroinvertebrate data, site visits and professional judgment are also used to help determine use support.
Water quality measurements, sample collections, and sample handling follow procedures contained in the Division of Water Quality’s Quality Assurance and Standard Operating Procedures Manual (1993) and are consistent with standard practices accepted by the Environmental Protection Agency. Laboratory analyses of these samples are conducted by the Utah State Health Department Laboratory according to their standard procedures. All the data are stored and are available on Utah’s water quality data storage and retrieval system as well as on EPA’s Website.