Every drop of water is on an endless journey through the sky, the soil and streams…through our lives…and back into nature. – From the United Nations, World Water Day 2018
In 1993, the United Nations designated March 22 World Water Day, with a call to action: Universal access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene must be available to all people across the world.
This year, the 25th anniversary of WWD, the message has been shaped more than ever before by climate change, and the disasters that punctuate the story of a warming planet. Historically catastrophic hurricanes and more frequent and devastating floods. Drier winters in the western U.S., with record snow and weeks of sub-freezing temperatures cold in the eastern states. Persistent drought and water shortages, including a dire prediction that Capetown, South Africa, a city of 4 million, will be completely out of water by this summer.
The UN has taken a somewhat optimistic approach this year toward water availability and conservation. With the theme “The Answer is In Nature,” agency officials are promoting looking to what is right in front of us – forests, lakes and rivers, natural wetlands, mountains – as the means to protect, preserve and conserve water.
While much of the UN focus for World Water Day is on severe shortages and cleaning up polluted water sources in developing nations, the fully developed United States faces its own challenges. The scandal of lead-tainted water in Flint, Michigan, exacerbated by years of government inaction, is one recent example.
Closer to home, we know how precious water is to our health, economy, and way of life. Serving more than 400,000 residents across Salt Lake City and County, the Central Wasatch Canyons watershed is a critical and delicate resource. Resident confidence in the water they drink is precious, and for decades, Salt Lake City has responsibly protected the watershed.
Recently, legislative efforts to change more than a century of Salt Lake City’s protection and management of our watershed illustrated the pressures brought to bear by development in our nearby canyons.
On a March 19th visit to the Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities, Mayor Jackie Biskupski congratulated Director Laura Briefer and her team for their diligent work and focus on behalf of clean water during the recent legislative session.
“We here in Salt Lake City have a well-kept secret,” the Mayor said. “It’s our water. It’s clean, pure and tasty right from the tap. And we need to make sure it stays that way by protecting our source waters – the creeks and streams that carry water from our mountains to us.”
In fact, it cannot be overstressed: The cleaner the source water is going into the treatment process, the purer, safer and more affordable it will be flowing from the faucet.
“There is a direct nexus of our City watershed to the public health, and that can’t be overplayed,” says Marian Rice, Water Quality and Treatment Administrator for SLC Public Utilities. “We have multiple source waters and redundancy throughout our system, including mountain streams, surface water reservoirs and groundwater wells and springs. But more than 60 percent of our drinking water comes from our mountain watershed. So protecting that water even before it reaches treatment plants is vital.”
When we neglect our ecosystems, we make it harder to provide everyone with the water we need to survive and thrive.
Contributed by Holly Mullen, SLCPU
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.
We will always protect this precious resource.