Environmental officials have grim prediction for Utah’s water quality picture

Apr 22, 2021, 7:16 AM
(Debris in the Jordan River. Photo: Tony Frates, courtesy of the Utah Division of Water Quality.)...
(Debris in the Jordan River. Photo: Tony Frates, courtesy of the Utah Division of Water Quality.)
(Debris in the Jordan River. Photo: Tony Frates, courtesy of the Utah Division of Water Quality.)

SALT LAKE CITY – As the world celebrates Earth Day, environmental officials said there’s some very bad news about the water quality in Utah. They say it’s declining, and they believe it’s just going to keep getting worse. 

The Utah Division of Water Quality recently assessed over 1,900 monitoring sites in over 900 different lakes, rivers or streams.  The numbers were not good.  Division Director, Dr. Erica Gaddis says 42 percent of the waters they checked were deemed to be “impaired.”  What does that mean?

Utah’s water ‘impaired water quality

“The water quality does not support their intended uses, whether that’s for drinking water, recreation, fish or agricultural uses,” Gaddis said.

The definition of “impaired” can change based on what the water is supposed to be used for.  For instance, water designated for fish hatcheries may not have enough oxygen.  Or, water set aside for irrigation may be too salty.

Gov. Cox declares Utah’s drought a state of emergency

Gaddis said, “For example, in our recreational waters, we want to make sure the E coli concentrations are low so that we protect recreational users.”

Only one-third of Utah’s waters were called “impaired” just a decade ago.  Gaddis said quality standards have increased since then, which may factor into declining quality levels.  However, she says pollution levels have increased as the state’s population has. 

If Utah is going to keep up with projected growth, Gaddis believes major upgrades are going to have to happen to sewage treatment systems across the state.  Many sewage systems are about 40 years old and coming to the end of their useful life span, so the division will be working with cities to make these upgrades.  Drinking water standards are highly regulated in the state, and Gaddis says it’s always treated before reaching our faucets. 

“Of course, the fish don’t get to have their water treated and on our recreational waters, people are directly exposed to surface waters,” she says.

Harmful algae levels are expected to be higher this year, partly due to the dry winter.  Gaddis says there wasn’t as much snow and rain to flush out chemicals like nitrogen and phosphorous as normal.  Utah Lake is most commonly known for having high levels of algae blooms.

“There are a number of others, like Scofield Reservoir, Pineview Reservoir and some of the other state parks around the state.  We’ll be actively monitoring to make sure the public is protected from any developing harmful algal blooms,” according to Gaddis.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories


FILE - A doctor loads a dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, at ...
Aimee Cobabe

Bill banning vaccine passports heading to Utah Senate

A bill to ban vaccine passports is heading out of the Utah House and into the Utah Senate. The bill is similar to a failed bill from 2022.
1 day ago
A bill on transgender healthcare — banning transgender-related surgeries and puberty blockers for...
Eliza Pace, KSL TV and Aimee Cobabe, KSL NewsRadio

Utah Senate approves changes to transgender care bill, passes on to Gov. Cox

SB16 bans gender-confirming surgeries for minors and also places a moratorium on puberty blockers for minors.
4 days ago
Havasu Falls spills into the water pools below in Supai, Arizona, in October of 2016. Photo credit:...
Forrest Brown, CNN

Grand Canyon’s Havasu Falls to reopen to visitors after 3-year closure

 (CNN) — Havasu Falls, one of the most intriguing features of the Grand Canyon system, will be reopening to visitors after a three-year closure caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. But it’s with a catch. The reopening is scheduled for February 1; however, access will be limited initially to a certain, small group. People whose previous […]
4 days ago
White carnations representing each of the 1,746 unborn babies that were aborted in Utah in 2022 are...
Allessandra Harris and Simone Seikaly

Speeches, silence, during Pro-Life Utah memorial at the Capitol

About 100 people including Utah lawmakers and religious leaders attended the memorial on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023.
5 days ago
 A mental health clinic will reopen on Thursday after a carbon monoxide leak sent at least 17 peop...
Michael Locklear

Carbon monoxide poisoning at central Utah clinic hospitalizes 17 people

The Central Utah Counseling Center in Ephraim was evacuated a week ago after a problem with an old furnace was discovered.
6 days ago
a row of guns are pictured...
Mark Jones

KSL at Night: How do we solve gun violence?

KSL at Night hosts Taylor Morgan and Maura Carabello speak with Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council about gun violence.
7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
Environmental officials have grim prediction for Utah’s water quality picture