Utah Lake Algal Bloom Update

There is good news about the algal bloom that has been afflicting Utah Lake since mid-July. On Friday, June 22, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued the following information to affected water utilities (including WaterPro/Draper Irrigation):

Based on the latest algal cell counts and toxin data, the algal bloom on Utah Lake appears to be decreasing.

The analysis of all water samples taken between July 14th and July 19th for the cyanotoxin saxitoxin failed to detect the toxin in any of them.

The failure to detect cyanotoxin has alleviated concerns related to the algal bloom and has allowed some easing of restrictions.

  • The Utah County Health Department is reopening previously closed areas of the Jordan River in Utah County and posting “Warning” signs advising people to avoid contact (either by humans or animals) with the water.
  • The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food intends to lift its advisory warning against using Utah Lake water for irrigation and livestock.
  • There have been no reports of dead wildlife or extensive fish kills in the Jordan River or Utah Lake.

In addition, testing has found no toxins in vegetables and other crops that were drip or flood irrigated with Utah Lake water.

Does this mean the problem is over?

In a word, no. According to the DEQ, “While the bloom may be dissipating for now, it may return if or when conditions are favorable for growth of cyanobacteria.” Hot weather and low lake levels, which are predicted to continue or worsen for the rest of the summer, may increase the algal bloom and cause concern again.

The Salt Lake County Health Department urges people to still exercise caution and avoid contact with water from Utah Lake and the Jordan River.

What does this mean for WaterPro customers?

Our culinary (drinking) water system receives no water from Utah Lake. No drinking water systems in the Salt Lake Valley have been affected by the Utah Lake algal bloom problem.

In our pressure irrigation (PI) system, however, 100% of the water at this time of year comes from Utah Lake.

Why didn’t WaterPro shut down its PI system?

Some irrigation systems that rely on Utah Lake water, such as Riverton City, shut down their systems while it was being determined if toxins were present in the water. WaterPro/Draper Irrigation did not.

Last year we began testing a chemical treatment program to improve the quality of the Utah Lake water in our PI system. This year we have been using this treatment method, and we are happy to report that it removed 75% of the algae cells from the water. This, along with our continued monitoring of the situation with the DEQ, led us to decide not to shut down the PI system.

If you have been watering your vegetable garden with PI water, testing has shown that there should be no harm to crops that have been flood or drip irrigated.

Be careful with PI water

While the situation is improving for now, we urge our PI customers to exercise caution.

  • Water lawns at night to minimize contact with the PI water.
  • Avoid inhaling water vapor from sprinklers.
  • Do not allow children or pets to play in the sprinklers.
  • No one should ever drink irrigation water.

We will continue to monitor the situation and let our customers know if they should take additional precautions.