There are two rules the Central Utah Water Conservancy District and the city of Orem have concerning their water supply. The first rule is don’t make the news. The second rule is the same.
On Tuesday, Chris Tschirki, Orem’s Public Works director told the city council that hazardous water conditions in Sandy recently brought to his attention renewed the need to be constantly updating drinking water information and treatment.
On Feb. 15, Sandy was cited by the Department of Environmental Quality because tests found high levels of lead, copper and fluoride in its water. Residents were asked not to drink or cook with it until test results came back showing that it was okay to use.
Sandy has been accused of not being forthright with its residents about the problems and that there was a major breakdown in communications.
“We wanted to let you know what Orem does,” Tschirki told the council. “Water has a significant effect on the quality of life.”
In his presentation, Tschirki gave a history of water and when treatments came along that cleaned water of many diseases.
“The average U.S. life expectancy was 35 years, 200 years ago and has more than doubled (79 years) since. The largest gain in life expectancy occurred between 1880 and 1920, due to public health improvements such as control of infectious diseases, more abundant and safer foods, cleaner water, and other non-medical social improvements,” he said.
In 2002, Utah County voters chose not to have fluoride added to the water, according to Gerard Yates with Central Utah Water Conservancy District.
Orem’s drinking water supply comes from three different sources, 25 percent from ground water, 15 percent from nine deep wells of spring water and 60 percent form surface water.
Surface water is brought to Orem from the Provo River, Weber River, Duchesne River, Deer Creek Reservoir, Jordanelle Reservoir and Strawberry Reservoir.
“The water is diversified, abundant, robust and high quality,” Tschirki said.
He also said that treatment is not necessary on the ground water but the rest needs treatment.
“We feel comfortable drinking right from the source,” Tschirki said.
“Orem has a high quality of drinking water,” Yates said. “Most utilities would like to get to this quality of water.”
In 2016, Orem received a state award for the Best Tasting Water in Utah.
Yates added, “We make sure water is never corrosive.”
CUWCD has received a national award from the Partnership for Safe Water and has had 15 consecutive years of quality water.
Yates and Neal Winterton, Orem’s water resource division manager, discussed the technical process of keeping the drinking water at a higher standard than EPA goals so Orem is always in safe compliance with contaminants like lead and copper.
Tschirki said the wells are checked daily.
“During the winter, the wells are not used as much as in the summer,” Tschiriki said. “Continuous data is being fed to the office electronically, but we go to the site also.”
Yates also said the warning system at the Olmstead plant at the mouth of Provo Canyon continuously lets them know what is happening. CUWCD has two power sources to keep the machinery running and a backup generator if ever needed.
The Donald A. Christiansen Water Treatment Plant in the east hills of Orem has a variety of metering devices, such as a chlorine analyzer, to keep the water tested.
Councilwoman Debby Blad Lauret wanted to know how the water levels were doing given the winter Orem has had.
“We have 140 percent of average in our watershed,” Tschirki said. “It appears to be a wet water year.
Winterton added, “We have more water then demand and enough for build up (growth) for the next 50 years. Orem is in a very good position. The relationship we have with CUWCD is a long history, we share a common goal.”