SLC’s Watershed: Our Precious Resource

Red Butte Canyon Reservoir

Serving more than 340,000 residents across Salt Lake City and County, the Central Wasatch Canyons watershed is vital to our way of life. Resident confidence in the water they drink is precious, and for decades, Salt Lake City has responsibly protected the watershed.

By state law, Salt Lake City has had the right and obligation to control pollution-causing activities in the nearby canyons. With this authority, our city ordinances limit development within 50 feet of waterways, regulate sanitary facilities, prohibit certain chemical use in the watersheds, and restrict dogs and other domestic animals in the watershed. Our watershed ordinances are in effect above the stream intakes to our water treatment plants in City Creek, Parleys, Big Cottonwood and Little Cottonwood canyons.

The State Legislature has again taken up this issue during the annual session. HB135 is a bill moving through the Legislature that significantly limits Salt Lake City’s ability to protect drinking water sources from pollution. Key points of the bill include:

  • modifying a section of state code (10-8-15) that gives first class cities jurisdiction to protect their sources of culinary water from pollution when those municipal water sources are located outside a city’s corporate boundaries. This jurisdiction is also referred to as extra-territorial jurisdiction.
  • removing the jurisdiction of first class cities over the entire watershed, and reduces this  jurisdiction to 300 feet on either side of the stream in which water is taken

Municipal water suppliers such as Salt Lake City have significant regulatory requirements to meet the drinking water standards for more than 90 contaminants pursuant to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and state Utah Water Quality Control Act. HB135 would undermine municipal ability to meet federal and state drinking water standard requirements. This could put the public at risk for contaminated water supplies and water supply disruption.

Locate your legislators today and urge them to support strong watershed protections and to preserve SLC’s legacy of stewardship.

Salt Lake City is not alone in our concerns and stewardship of water sources. Cities across the state capture, treat, and convey water emanating from outside their municipal boundaries. Many of these cities use extraterritorial authority to protect their water resources from pollution – Sandy, Provo, Ogden.

We support the recommendation of the Executive Water Task Force to study this issue over the next year. There are many potential consequences to such a significant change in water policy.

City and county leaders have worked to maintain the proper balance of development and recreation along with watershed protection. We collaborate closely with the public and federal, state, and other municipal agencies to maintain this balance. With increasing population, increasing demand, and changes in supply levels, it is imperative that Salt Lake City ensure the safety and security of the water we drink.

About Salt Lake City Public Utilities

Established in 1876, the Salt Lake City Public Utilities Department works every day to ensure your water comes to you clean and pure. As the oldest retail water provider in the West, environmental stewardship and a commitment to protecting the Wasatch watershed is on the minds of every team member.

Click here to learn more about the Salt Lake City Public Utilities Department.

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