Salt Lake City

Public Utilities

Customer Service: (801) 483-6900 | Report Emergency: (801) 483-6700

Water Quality FAQs

Laura Briefer, SLCDPU’s Director, shares info about drinking water sampling.

How is drinking water regulated?

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible to enforce federal clean water and safe drinking water laws. Salt Lake City’s Department of Public Utilities (SLCDPU) delivers high-quality drinking water which often meets or exceeds EPA standards. As mandated by federal regulations, we routinely sample our water to test its quality and we publish that information in our Consumer Confidence Report (CCR).

What regulations are in place pertaining to PFAS?

On April 10, 2024, the EPA announced the final National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (NPDWR) for six PFAS. Visit the EPA’s website to learn more about this regulation or to read the announcement in full.

[accordion title="What is UCMR5?"]

The EPA collects data about contaminants which may be present in drinking water, but which are not currently regulated by the EPA or do not otherwise fall within EPA drinking water regulations. Data collected for this purpose is guided by the EPA’s Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR). UCMR is a program by which the EPA prioritizes those contaminants which are not yet regulated but are of interest in protecting public health. UCMR data collection occurs every five years. UCMR5 is the fifth instance of UCMR data collection. UCMR5 requires testing for 30 different chemical contaminants from samples taken between 2023 and 2025.

What contaminants are included in UCMR5 monitoring?

UCMR5 is focused on determining how significantly 29 PFAS and lithium are impacting the nation’s drinking water systems. At this time, the occurrence of PFAS and lithium in drinking water is not regulated. However, UCMR5 is intended to assess the frequency at which PFAS and lithium are found in drinking water and at what levels. Using this data, the EPA will determine how to regulate these contaminants in the future and whether further action is needed to protect public health in terms of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Data collection, like UCMR, ensures science-based decision-making from a perspective of better understanding how contaminants in drinking water impact communities and how to develop targeted solutions.

What are PFAS?

The acronym ‘PFAS’ is used to indicate perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. These are manufactured chemicals which have been in use since the 1940s and are (or have been) found in many different types of consumer products. There are thousands of different kinds of PFAS, but the most well-known and studied types are: perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). PFAS are persistent in the environment, meaning they do not break down easily and can accumulate over time. PFAS are known for unique properties, such as resistance to heat, water, and oil – making them useful in the production of a wide range of products. You might find PFAS in any number of consumer products, including things like: non-stick cookware, water resistant clothing, and food packaging. PFAS are also components of industrial products, such as firefighting foam.

What are the concerns about PFAS?

PFAS are known for environmental persistence, meaning they do not break down easily in the environment. While research into the human health impacts of PFAS is ongoing, there have been associations made between some health effects and long-term exposure to PFAS. New research into the human health impacts of PFAS occurs regularly and our understanding of the risks from exposure to PFAS changes as a result. Learn more about the US Centers for Disease Control current position on PFAS and human health.

The EPA is working to better understand how to evaluate and regulate PFAS pollutants. PFAS have been found to contaminate water, soil, and air – all of which contribute to their widespread presence in the environment. Read more about the EPA’s efforts related to PFAS.

What are the consequences of PFAS in drinking water?

PFAS are manufactured chemicals with widespread presence in our environment. PFAS are components in many products and as a result, can enter drinking water supplies in a number of ways. PFAS have been found to contaminate drinking water via industrial discharges, runoff from PFAS-containing products, the use of PFAS-containing firefighting foam at military bases and airports, as well as other methods. The human health impacts connected to PFAS exposure are still being studied, but there are associations with developmental effects, liver damage, immune system effects, and an increase risk of certain types of cancer. The EPA has proposed the first-ever national drinking water standard to limit six PFAS chemicals, in response to developing research. Learn more about the EPA’s proposed PFAS National Primary Drinking Water Regulation.

What are the consequences of lithium in drinking water?

Lithium is a naturally occurring metal found throughout the environment. Lithium has been found in some ground and surface water, and can also be found in foods we eat. Manufacturers use lithium for batteries, renewable energies, medicines, and more. Health care providers prescribe lithium for individuals to treat mental health conditions, such as bipolar illness or major depression. People can experience health issues as a result of too much lithium. The EPA has not yet established health advice or regulatory standards for lithium in drinking water. Data collection as part of UCMR5 is intended to help the EPA determine whether future research and/or regulation is needed. Water suppliers, like SLCDPU, are currently monitoring drinking water supplies for lithium, at a screening level of 10 parts per billion. This screening level is 1,000 times lower than the level at which side effects have been observed as a result of too much lithium. If you are concerned about the amount of lithium in your water:

-Consult the EPA’s website for UCMR5 test results.
-Call SLCDPU’s Water Quality Team for more information about the occurrence of lithium in our drinking water system.
-Consider a treatment system, such as reverse osmosis or ion exchange, which may remove lithium from your drinking water.
-If your health care provider has prescribed lithium to you as a medication, consult with your provider for more information.

Where have PFAS been detected in SLCDPU's water service area?

SLCDPU detected low concentrations of PFAS at the 500 South well and the 4th Avenue well.

  • The 500 South well has been offline for several years due to its proximity to an existing superfund site, which is being addressed by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the VA Hospital. Superfund is an informal reference to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) which was established in 1980 to allow EPA to clean up sites that were contaminated by improper disposal, storage, and/or management of hazardous waste
  • The detection at the 4th Avenue well occurred at the end of the 2023 season. The well was taken out of service at that time and has not resumed service since that detection. The 4th Avenue well is typically utilized in times of high-water demand (the summer months).

What is a 'low concentration' of PFAS?

PFAS was detected at 7.8 parts per trillion initially and later at 7.1 parts per trillion. (Note: for reference, one part per trillion is equal to 10 drops of water in the Rose Bowl stadium.) USEPA regulates contaminants in drinking water. On April 10, 2024, the EPA established contaminant levels for six PFAS compounds known to occur individually and/or in combination in drinking water. The EPA will monitor and regulate five of these compounds individually: PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHxS, and HFPO-DA. The sixth PFAS compound being monitored and regulated is a mixture of four different compounds which are often found in combination at varying levels: PFHxS, PFNA, HFPO-DA, and PFBS. Decades of research shows chemical mixtures can have additive or compounding health effects, even if individual compounds are each present at lower levels. This rule establishes the EPA’s limits for these chemicals individually and/or as mixtures, as follows.

CompoundFinal MCLGFinal MCL (enforceable levels)
PFOAZero4.0 parts per trillion (ppt)
PFOSZero4.0 ppt
PFHxS10 ppt10 ppt
PFNA10 ppt10 ppt
HFPO-DA (commonly known as GenX chemicals)10 ppt10 ppt
Mixtures containing two or more of: PFHxS, PFNA, HFPO-DA, PFBS1 (unitless)
hazard index
1 (unitless)
hazard index