Big Increase in People Visiting Canyon Watersheds Boosts Need for Everyone to Do Their Part to Keep Our Drinking Water Pure
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall joined other local officials today to reboot Salt Lake City’s “Keep It Pure” initiative. With more and more people visiting our mountains and their precious forested watersheds, it is more important than ever for people to Keep It Pure. About 60 percent of the City’s drinking water comes from these canyon watersheds in the central Wasatch Mountains. This water is naturally pure and requires only minimal processing. That is why it’s critical for people visiting our mountain watersheds to be good stewards and understand simple ways to avoid activities that can degrade these areas.
“We know that without an abundant and reliable source of pure, clean water, the City would not be able to attain and maintain the phenomenal growth we have experienced, and we would not have the quality of life we all enjoy,” said Mayor Mendenhall. “The stakes are also high because our watersheds’ pure water is less expensive to treat, transport, and store. It would be a sobering price tag if we had to build new infrastructure because water is no longer pure or available.”
“Every day, we admire our gorgeous Wasatch Mountains and are thankful for what these mountains have to offer – recreationally, emotionally, and spiritually. We are also grateful for the centuries of stewardship of these lands by our native and indigenous forebears. But how often do we look at City Creek, Emigration, Parleys, Big Cottonwood Canyon and Little Cottonwood Canyon – our watershed areas – and think wow…this is where our drinking water for the Salt Lake Valley comes from,” said Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities Director Laura Briefer. “The fact is they provide drinking water that 360,000 people depend on every day. It can take less than 24 hours for a drop of water in the central Wasatch Mountains to reach a faucet in the Salt Lake Valley.”
Providing high-quality, safe drinking water to growing communities in the Salt Lake Valley when Utah is the second driest state in the nation is no easy task. The City is tremendously fortunate to have an amazing source of high-quality, pure water in its nearby mountain watersheds. But according to officials, the watersheds, which for more than a century have been carefully managed and cared for, are being severely challenged by the increasing demand being placed on them as more and more people look for places to exercise and recreate outdoors, and by global warming impacts that can reduce snowfall and increase fire risks.
The situation along the central Wasatch Mountains is unique. In some areas of the country, watershed areas are completely closed for public use. In Salt Lake City, much of the watershed lands are in publicly accessible national forests and on the 36,000 acres that the City has acquired. The collaborative management process that has been used has allowed Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities to meet water quality standards while accommodating growing demands for recreation.
“Being able to align two community values requires a balanced approach using a combination of strategies,” said Mayor Mendenhall . “That means we must all work together to take care of our precious watersheds. All of us must do our part. We cannot take our water, watersheds, and our ability to freely access these watershed areas for granted. We must all have a strong sense of stewardship.”
“These mountains draw locals and people from around the globe to partake in their many offerings, including experiencing ‘The Greatest Snow on Earth,’ and miles of hiking and biking trails,” said Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort President and General Manager Dave Fields. “But we need to strike a balance between enjoying what our mountains have to offer and protecting them.”
“We want to bring people to these mountains, but we must do it right,” said Fields. “Many people are visiting and experiencing what these mountains have to offer for the first time and they don’t understand the do’s and don’ts. We need people to know what is expected of them when they are in them.”
The Keep It Pure initiative’s purpose is to educate people about where water comes from, how important watershed areas are, how the water coming from them is very pure, that there is a need to keep it pure through good stewardship, and what are the do’s and don’ts when you spend time in them. These simple do’s and don’ts are called Kip’s Tips. The initiative’s “spokes-pika” will help spread the word this summer through social and traditional media. A pika is a small, cute rodent that lives at the tops of mountains right where watersheds begin.
Kip’s Tips include: Stay out of the water, stay on designated trails, only use bathroom facilities, do not litter, keep dogs and other domesticated animals out of watershed areas, and observe all the posted guidelines.
“We need to become more aware of our actions as individuals when we visit our mountains to ski or snowboard at a resort, hike an amazing network of trails, cycle up and down canyon areas, or just sit near a stream and soak in the sunshine and fresh air,” said Salt Lake City Council Chair Amy Fowler. “Keeping our watershed water pure is so important to all of us. We all have a stake in our future, and we all have a responsibility to do our part.”
Having a secure supply of safe, clean drinking water is vital. It is essential for human life. We simply cannot live without it. We also use clean water for things like food production and sanitizing. Polluted water is not just dirty – it is deadly.
“Imagine turning on the tap in the morning to find a stream of unpleasant brown sludge that tastes like metal,” said Salt Lake County Health Department Bureau Water Quality and Hazardous Waste Manager Teresa Gray. “That was the reality of residents of Flint, Michigan when lead from aging pipes seeped into their water system and poisoned an entire community.”
According to Gray many places are struggling because their water is not pure and not reliable. Places throughout the nation are dealing with impacts of industrial pollution.
“We’ve learned a lot over the 150 years we have been managing and protecting our watersheds,” said Briefer. “Most importantly, we’ve learned that no one entity can do it alone. We rely on the help of our partners to keep our water pure, but no less important is our need for the public’s help.”
A community partner that came forward to help the Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities with the Keep It Pure endeavor was Uinta Brewing. Uinta Brewing volunteered to create special packaging for their Westwater hard seltzer that is made with pure central Wasatch Mountain water. The packaging has the Keep It Pure logo and Kip’s Tips on it.
“This is a great initiative and is very much in line with our values at Uinta Brewing,” said Uinta Brewing CEO Jeremy Ragonese. “We are happy to help spread the word.”
For more information about the Keep It Pure initiative visit www.keepitpure.com.
###Tags: Keep it Pure Initiative, Salt Lake City Council Chair Amy Fowler, Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Salt Lake County Health Department Bureau Water Quality and Hazardous Waste Manager Teresa Gray, SLCDPU Director Laura Briefer, Uinta Brewing