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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Public Utilities requests resident engagement to help inventory water infrastructure

Mar 30, 2023 11:37AM ● By Cassie Goff

Salt Lake Public Utilities is encouraging residents to participate in inventorying the water infrastructure system through their website. (Laura Briefer/Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities)

Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities (SLCDPU) Director Laura Briefer presented an overview of the water supply for the area to the Cottonwood Heights City Council on March 1. She reported on current drought conditions, detailed the water utility infrastructure and drinking water supply, shared new federal regulations, and provided updates on the department’s guiding documents. 

Additionally, Briefer asked Cottonwood Heights to spread the word about their calls for resident engagement. SLCDPU is asking residents to be mindful of water conservation, get informed about new regulations regarding lead in water pipes, provide feedback for their management plan updates, and help inventory the water utility infrastructure system. 

 “Our snowpack and water supply is in very good condition this year,” Briefer said. 

Even though the winter season has been positive in terms of contributing to the service area’s water supply, Briefer reminded the council that drought conditions persist. According to the Intermountain West Climate Dashboard in February, 99% of Utah remains in some level of drought. Salt Lake Valley, specifically, remains in severe drought conditions. The Great Salt Lake remains in critical condition as well. 

“One year of snowpack is great. But we need average, or above average, snowpack for several years to exit drought status,” Briefer said.

SLCDPU has a vast water utility infrastructure from water treatment plants to transition mains and pipelines, with over 90,000 connections. Their service area includes all of Salt Lake City as well as portions of South Salt Lake, Millcreek, Holladay, Cottonwood Heights, Murray and Midvale. 

The drinking water supply for the service area is collected from a few different channels. Fifty percent to 60% is filtered from Parley’s Canyon, City Creek Canyon and the two Cottonwood Canyons (Little and Big), while 30% to 35% of the drinking water supply flows from the Deer Creek Reservoir as part of the Provo River project. 

“These canyons are so valued and important for the quality of life for our community. There is a lot of interaction with communities interested in what is happening in the canyons,” Briefer said.

Many additional cities throughout Salt Lake County and Utah County benefit from Deer Creek Reservoir. Briefer described the reservoir as an insurance policy when experiencing year over year droughts as it can store a significant amount of water for long periods of time. The canyon systems, however, are not equipped for storing water (with the exception of the Little Dell and Mountain Dell reservoirs in Parley’s Canyon). 

“The combination of readily available water sources and stored water puts us in a very nice position,” Briefer said.

Following the crisis in Flint, Michigan (and other drinking water crises concerning lead contamination), the Environmental Protection Agency has made it a priority to update their federal rules related to lead and copper. The SLCDPU has already replaced older parts of the water utility infrastructure system that could have been constructed from lead.   

“We are quite sure we don’t have lead in the water mains that run through the city,” Briefer said.

Recent mandates require every single water service line to be inventoried. If there is suspicion any part of a service line could have the potential for lead contaminants, a plan must be developed and put into place to remove and replace those service lines.

“One of the challenges we are having is we have good records of the water lines the city has installed, but not water lines installed by private entities,” Briefer said.

SLCDPU is responsible for water lines connecting from mains to meters, but connections from water meters to developments are the individual property (or home) owners’ responsibility. Currently, 64,000 service lines are unknown. SLCDPU is asking for help from residents to reduce that number. 

In addition to helping inventory the water utility infrastructure, residents have been working with SLCDPU to update the Watershed Management Plan through surveys and open houses. Originally drafted in 1989, the Watershed Management Plan identifies pollution risks to drinking water resources and identifies management strategies to reduce those risks. 

Vulnerability assessments and resident feedback will be finalized into a report that will be taken to the Salt Lake City Council and the Public Utilities Advisory Committee. (Cottonwood Heights resident Ted Boyer serves on that Advisory Committee.)

“We have a lot of coordination opportunities,” Briefer said.

Residents can expect water quality reports annually delivered to their mailboxes. SLCDPU monitors water quality for more than 90 contaminants to comprise individual water quality reports. 

To learn more about the rebuild of the Big Cottonwood Water Treatment Plant (4101 Big Cottonwood Canyon Road), visit: 

To learn more about the process to get involved with the Watershed Management Plan update, visit:

To learn more about new regulations surrounding lead in water pipes, visit:

To help inventory the water infrastructure system, visit SLCDPU’s survey at:

For find the annual Water Quality Consumer Report, visit:

To learn more about conserving water at home, visit: