The Salt Lake County Health Department Water Quality Bureau helps protect drinking water by:
- Inspecting public water systems
- Collecting and analyzing water samples from public water systems
- Investigating suspected waterborne illnesses and complaints
Regulation of public water systems in Utah is the responsibility the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Division of Drinking Water, which ensures that our state's water systems meet the guidelines contained in the EPA's Safe Drinking Water Act, the federal law that protects public drinking water supplies.
Even when drinking water meets state and federal water quality standards, it can, at times, have a strange taste or smell or appear discolored. This does not necessarily present a health concern. Taste and smell problems are often caused by plumbing within a home, especially in homes with older plumbing.
If you are concerned about the taste, smell, or appearance of your drinking water, contact your specific water system (see the next tab, above, for more information).
Your Public Water
Your public water system depends on where you live in Salt Lake County.
Your water system is the water company that provides your culinary (tap) water; it's where you pay your water bill and may be called an “improvement district,” “water conservancy district,” or may be part of your city’s public utility department.
Public water systems must test their water on a regular basis; the frequency of testing depends on the size of the system—water companies with more customers must test more frequently than smaller systems with fewer customers—but ranges from daily to a few times per month.
Water testing includes contaminant testing required by the EPA. Your water system is required to send their users a Consumer Confidence Report annually that lists the results of their testing; many water systems also post these reports on their web sites.
There are several public water systems operating in Salt Lake County. Be aware that water system boundaries do not necessarily align with municipal boundaries (for example, your water system may be Salt Lake City Public Utilities even if you do not live in Salt Lake City proper).
If you don't know which water system serves your home, you can look up your public water system at the Utah Division of Drinking Water by entering your street address and ZIP code or city. The search results will include contact information for your water system.
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral released from rocks into the soil, water, and air. Almost all water naturally contains some fluoride.
What does fluoride do?
Fluoride benefits children and adults throughout their lives.
- For children younger than 8, fluoride helps strengthen the adult (permanent) teeth that are developing under the gums.
- For adults, drinking water with fluoride supports tooth enamel, keeping teeth strong and healthy.
The health benefits of fluoride include having fewer cavities, less severe cavities, less need for fillings and removing teeth, less pain and suffering because of tooth decay.
How does fluoride work?
Fluoride stops or even reverses the tooth decay process—it keeps tooth enamel strong and solid. Tooth decay is caused by certain bacteria in the mouth. When a person eats sugar and other refined carbohydrates, these bacteria produce acid that removes minerals from the surface of the tooth. Fluoride helps to remineralize tooth surfaces and prevents cavities from forming. Studies show that fluoride in community water systems prevents at least 25% of tooth decay in children and adults, even in an era with widespread availability of fluoride from other sources, such as fluoride toothpaste.
Why do we add fluoride to community drinking water?
While almost all water already has naturally occurring fluoride, usually the amount is not high enough to have positive health effects. Salt Lake County Health Regulation #33 requires most public water systems in the county to supplement their community drinking water with the right amount of fluoride so their system reaches the optimal level. This is similar to fortifying other foods and beverages, like fortifying salt with iodine, milk with vitamin D, orange juice with calcium, and bread with folic acid.
Water fluoridation's biggest advantage is that it is the best method for delivering fluoride to all members of the community regardless of age, education, income level, or access to routine dental care. Fluoride's effectiveness in preventing tooth decay extends throughout life, resulting in fewer and less severe cavities. In fact, each generation born since the implementation of water fluoridation has enjoyed better dental health than the preceding generation.
How long has fluoride been in Salt Lake County’s water systems?
Salt Lake County began community water fluoridation in 2003, after a public vote to do so in 2000.
What is the optimal level of fluoride in drinking water?
Per the CDC, the optimum level of fluoride in community drinking water to have positive health effects is 0.7mg/L.
How do we know fluoride is safe in community water systems?
Salt Lake County Health Department requires public water systems to regularly monitor and sample fluoride levels to ensure each system is delivering the optimal level of fluoride for positive health benefits.
The safety and effectiveness of fluoride at levels used in community water fluoridation have been thoroughly reviewed by multinational scientific and public health organizations (U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, and the World Health Organization) using evidence-based reviews and expert panels. These panels include scientists with expertise in various health and scientific disciplines, including medicine, biophysics, chemistry, toxicological pathology, oral health, and epidemiology.
For 70 years, the best available scientific evidence consistently indicates that community water fluoridation is safe and effective. It has been endorsed by numerous U.S. Surgeons General, and more than 100 health organizations recognize the health benefits of water fluoridation for preventing dental decay, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, the American Dental Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Isn’t fluoride toxic?
Like many vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to health at appropriate doses, very high levels of fluoride can cause negative health effects, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
The major source of fluoride toxicity remains oral hygiene products. Fluoride poisoning data collected by the American Association of Poison Control (AAPC) indicates that tooth paste ingestion remains the main source of fluoride toxicity, followed by mouth washes and supplements containing fluoride.
There are no known negative health effects of fluoride at levels used for community water fluoridation (0.7mg/L). Even at higher concentrations (such as 2–4 mg/L), there is no evidence of unwanted health effects, other than dental fluorosis (white spots on teeth that are not harmful). The prevalence of dental fluorosis is nearly zero at fluoride concentrations less than 2 mg/L.
The single dose (consumed at one time) of fluoride that could cause acute fluoride toxicity is 5 mg per kg of body weight. At the 0.7mg/L level of fluoride used in community water fluoridation, an adult weighing 155 lbs. would need to drink almost 120 gallons of water at one time to reach a toxic dose.
How much does community water fluoridation cost?
The average lifetime cost per person to fluoridate a water supply is less than the cost of one dental filling. For most cities, every $1 invested in water fluoridation saves $38 in dental treatment costs.
What types of fluoride have been approved for use in Utah water systems?
Hydrofluorosilicic acid (H2SiF6), sodium fluoride (NaF), and sodium fluorosilicate (Na2SiF6) may be used for community water fluoridation in Utah.
Only approved manufacturers and distributers can supply fluoride to community water systems. The manufacturer and distributor of these chemicals must submit NSF/ANSI applications attesting to their quality and safety in manufacturing practices, packaging, and shipment practices to the Utah Division of Drinking Water and local health departments
Does fluoride contain metals?
Not at levels beyond what the EPA recommends in drinking water.
How long has fluoride been used for dental purposes?
In the 1930s, scientists examined the relationship between tooth decay in children and naturally occurring fluoride in drinking water. In 1945, the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was the first to add fluoride to its city water system. Since then, hundreds of cities across the country have started community water fluoridation.
How many people in Utah and the United States receive fluoridated water?
1,614,982 out of 3,096,343 Utahns (52.5% of the population) are on water systems that have fluoridated water.
In 2018, 73.0% of the U.S. population on community water systems, or 207,426,535 people, received access to fluoridated water.
Private wells and springs approved as a source of drinking water must meet several testing and design requirements, including quantity, pressure, and quality standards.
Access to an approved drinking water source, either through a public water system or an approved private well or spring, is a requirement for occupying a home in Salt Lake County.
Complete requirements for these individual water systems are listed in Salt Lake County’s Health Regulations but, in summary, an approved system must have:
- Necessary legal water rights.
- Physical ability to supply at least 400 gallons per day per household, 365 days per year (800 gallons if it will also supply landscape water).
- Physical ability to provide at least 20 pounds per square inch of pressure at all times.
- Contaminant levels below the maximums listed in our health regulation (the system may be subject to further sampling and analysis based on specific circumstances).
Wells must have been drilled according to all Utah Division of Water Rights requirements and must meet depth, location, protection zone, and other parameters.
Springs must meet location, collection device, junction box, flow measurement, and other requirements.
If you have questions, contact us at 385-468-3862.
Many consumers are surprised to learn that bottled water may be less safe than their tap water.
The EPA and Utah Division of Drinking Water set standards that all public drinking water providers throughout Salt Lake County must meet. Bottled water providers are not required to meet these same water quality standards.
Some bottled water is treated more than tap water, but other bottled water is not treated at all. If you choose to purchase bottled water, read the label to understand exactly what you are buying, and remember that individually bottled water contributes significantly to our waste stream.
Tap water in Salt Lake County is regularly tested for safety and is the environmentally friendly choice.