As more people head outdoors, SLC urges watershed protection

SALT LAKE CITY – As more and more people hike, fish, camp, and simply enjoy the nearby canyons, Salt Lake City officials urge them to do more to protect the purity of the water.

After all, the water from the canyons is the drinking water supply for a significant part of the Salt Lake Valley.

“We provide water to all of Salt Lake City and many communities along the east bank of the Salt Lake Valley that are now incorporated into Millcreek, Cottonwood Heights, Holladay, small parts of South Salt Lake, Murray and Midvale,” said Laura Briefer. the director of public utilities for Salt Lake City.

But an increased number of people who have chosen to go outdoors as part of the COVID-19 pandemic has put increased stress on the fragile watershed.

“Our water catchment areas are increasingly challenged by the high demands placed on them as more and more people look for places to exercise and relax outdoors, as well as the effects of climate change, which can reduce snowfall and increase our risk of forest fires,” said Erin, Salt Lake City Mayoress Mendenhall said at a news conference Monday.

The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest is one of the most heavily trafficked forest areas in the country.

“We’re even surpassing what Yellowstone has in visitor numbers,” said US Forest Service Ranger Bekee Hotze.

Salt Lake City is renewing its “Keep it Pure” campaign to promote water catchment protection as more people enjoy the beautiful weather. It urges people to:

  • Stay out of the water
  • Stay on the trails
  • Use only designated toilets
  • Do not throw away
  • Keep dogs out of water catchment areas

“We’ve spent centuries protecting our watershed and we really have the purest water in the country,” said Amy Fowler, chairwoman of Salt Lake City Council.

Salt Lake City actually owns a significant portion of the watershed outside of its boundaries in the nearby Wasatch Front canyons. According to a law passed by the legislature, it is forbidden to block water for communities that are not within its limits. At the same time, the legislature rejected bills that could damage the watershed (a bill to allow dogs in these areas was rejected).

City officials hope that raising people’s awareness of the watershed will lead to more conservation efforts.

“I don’t think we’re in danger now per se, but if we don’t keep protecting it, we sure will be,” said Fowler.

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