The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently published  a summary of public information about water quality in Utah. EWG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, founded in 1993 by Ken Cook and Richard Wiles. The EWG compiles research and lobbies for policy change concerning health and environmental issues.

The data in their report was gathered via publicly available information from the associated local, state, and federal agencies. I’ve never seen such a clear and comprehensive collection of the data presented anywhere else, and I’m really pleased that the EWG has taken the initiative to compile this  for all to read.

While Utah’s water generally meets the minimum standards, it is interesting to notice the large number of violations, failures to test and failures to report, which are concerning.

The report can be accessed here, and I’ve pasted the contents below for your reading convenience:


434 systems serving 3,802,780 people

This drinking water quality report shows results of tests conducted by water utilities in Utah, provided to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. It is part of EWG’s national database that includes 47,667 drinking water utilities and 20 million test results from 45 states and the District of Columbia. Water utilities nationwide detected more than 300 pollutants between 2004 and 2009. More than half of these chemicals are unregulated, legal in any amount. Despite this widespread contamination, the federal government invests few resources in protecting rivers, reservoirs, and groundwater from pollution in the first place. The information below summarizes drinking water quality for this state.

The state water agency did not respond to requests for water quality tests conducted after 2006. Results from earlier data requests are shown below

Water Utilities
Population Served
Detected Chemicals
Exceed health guidelines*
Exceed Legal Limits*
Unregulated chemicals detected
* Water utilities are noted as exceeding the legal limit if any test is above the maximum contaminant level (MCL). Most MCLs are based on annual averages so exceeding the MCL for one test does not necessarily indicate that the system is out of compliance.

33 Contaminants Exceeding Health Based Limits

Contaminants detected in Utah drinking water above health guidelines, according to an Environmental Working Group analysis of data obtained from state water authorities

Number of Systems
At Any Level Above Health Limits At Any Level Above Health Limits
Bromodichloromethane 3,374,004 3,374,004 180 180
Total haloacetic acids (HAAs) 3,373,447 3,309,597 164 159
Dibromochloromethane 3,308,504 3,306,454 175 174
Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) 3,495,143 2,999,417 220 112
Chloroform 3,370,794 2,936,531 172 79
Dichloroacetic acid 2,789,306 2,789,306 118 118
Arsenic (total) 2,379,492 2,379,492 220 220
Alpha particle activity (excl radon and uranium) 2,242,727 2,242,727 201 201
Bromoform 1,392,064 1,392,064 104 104
Thallium (total) 1,081,623 1,081,623 29 29

Water Utilities in Utah Reporting Chemicals Exceeding Health Guidelines

Water utilities in Utah reporting chemicals exceeding health guidelines, according to an Environmental Working Group analysis of data obtained from state water authorities, include:

Chemicals tested
Chemicals found
Chemicals exceeding
health guidelines
St. George City 70,000 121 21 12
Park City 7,500 114 22 12
Sandy City Water System 99,750 112 21 12
Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District 82,500 127 26 12
Hill Air Force Base 21,000 88 17 12
Taylorsville-Bennion Wid 67,000 117 21 11
Kearns Improvement District 46,000 111 17 11
Draper Irrigation Company 28,000 113 18 11
Weber Basin Water Conservancy District 298,000 113 21 10
Rockville Pipeline Co 195 117 19 10
Mountain Regional Water Ssd 6,400 119 22 10
Herriman City 17,000 113 18 10
Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities 312,000 113 22 10
Riverton City Water System 30,000 117 18 10
Granger-Hunter Impr Distr 106,000 110 17 10
Green River 973 113 17 10
North Salt Lake 6,474 118 20 10
Farmington City 12,800 112 17 10
Centerville City 16,000 118 21 10
Angell Springs Ssd 210 59 15 9

Sources of Utah Drinking Water Contaminants

The contaminants identified in Utah drinking water come from a wide variety of sources, including agriculture, industry, water treatment plants, and polluted storm runoff from urban areas.

50 Total Contaminants Detected (2004 – 2006)
10 Agricultural Pollutants
(pesticides, fertilizer, factory farms)Arsenic (total), Cyanide, Nitrate & nitrite, Nitrate, Nitrite, Selenium (total), 3-Hydroxycarbofuran, Foaming agents (surfactants), p-Dichlorobenzene, Ethylbenzene
18 Sprawl and Urban Pollutants
(road runoff, lawn pesticides, human waste)Arsenic (total), Cadmium (total), Copper, Cyanide, Lead (total), Mercury (total inorganic), Nitrate & nitrite, Nitrate, Nitrite, Silver (total), Antimony (total), Di(2-Ethylhexyl) adipate, Naphthalene, Foaming agents (surfactants), Xylenes (total), Dichloromethane (methylene chloride), p-Dichlorobenzene, Tetrachloroethylene
37 Industrial PollutantsArsenic (total), Barium (total), Cadmium (total), Chromium (total), Cyanide, Lead (total), Manganese, Mercury (total inorganic), Nitrate & nitrite, Nitrate, Nitrite, Selenium (total), Silver (total), Antimony (total), Beryllium (total), Thallium (total), Asbestos, Di(2-Ethylhexyl) adipate, Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, Hexachlorobutadiene, Naphthalene, Foaming agents (surfactants), Xylenes (total), Dichloromethane (methylene chloride), p-Dichlorobenzene, Vinyl chloride, Trichloroethylene, Tetrachloroethylene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene, Styrene, Alpha particle activity (excl radon and uranium), Combined Radium (-226 & -228), Radium-226, Radium-228, Alpha particle activity, Gross beta particle activity (pCi/L)
15 Water Treatment and Distribution Byproducts
(pipes and fixtures, treatment chemicals and byproducts)Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs), Total haloacetic acids (HAAs), Chloroform, Bromodichloromethane, Dibromochloromethane, Dichloroacetic acid, Trichloroacetic acid, Bromoform, Dibromoacetic acid, Monochloroacetic acid, Monobromoacetic acid, Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, Cadmium (total), Vinyl chloride, Asbestos
19 Naturally Occurring
(naturally present but increased for lands denuded by sprawl, agriculture, or industrial development)Nitrate, Copper, Nitrate & nitrite, Barium (total), Lead (total), Arsenic (total), Manganese, Radium-228, Radium-226, Alpha particle activity, Alpha particle activity (excl radon and uranium), Combined Radium (-226 & -228), Gross beta particle activity (pCi/L), Chromium (total), Selenium (total), Nitrite, Mercury (total inorganic), Cyanide, Silver (total)
4 Unregulated Contaminants
EPA has not established a maximum legal limit in tapwater for these contaminantsLead (total), 3-Hydroxycarbofuran, Hexachlorobutadiene, Naphthalene

Testing Summary for Utah

The federal government has set standards for some of the pollutants found in tap water supplies.

Contaminants reported as tested by water suppliers in Utah 132
Contaminants tested due to federal law: 86
Contaminants tested in addition to those required by federal law: 46

Violation Summary for Utah

Data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency includes the following violations of federal standards in Utah since 2004

Violation Type Number of Violations
Failure to monitor regularly 3,644
Failure to monitor, Routine Major (Coliform bacteria) 223
Maximum contaminant level, Monthly (Coliform bacteria) 220
Monitoring and Reporting Disinfection Byproduct Rule 139
Failure to monitor, Routine Minor (Coliform bacteria) 118
Follow-up and Routine Tap Sampling 107
Failure to monitor, Repeat Major (Coliform bacteria) 62
Failure to notify public of violation 20
Failure to monitor, Repeat Minor (Coliform bacteria) 14
Public Notification Violation for National Primary Drinking Water Regulations 9
Maximum contaminant level, Acute (Coliform bacteria) 9
Treatment Technique Precursor Removal 5
Initial Tap Sampling for Lead and Copper 3