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Kesslee Huntington

Alexandra Kunz
Biology 1010/1015
Utah Water and Groundwater:What's affecting Groundwater? Can we help it?
Humans, complex organisms with the ability to reason, all rely on a basic necessity to
assure survival. This basic necessity is water. Water is the most abundant compound on earth,
covering almost 70% of our planet's surface. Ninety-six of the planet's water can be found in
oceans. However, humans, animals, and all other species have access to only.03% of that water.
In addition, water is a limited resource. One cannot create water; so in all reality, water is a
highly important and undervalued resource.
Issues with water have definitely been a part of human history. However as modern
innovations and technologies has been created, the amount of pollutants and hazards entering our
water system has grown tremendously. Any type of water sources varying from lakes, reservoirs,
streams, and even ground water can receive high percentages of pollutants and chemicals. The
issue of groundwater and its arising pollutants has become a much bigger problem, even in our
state of Utah, than we have originally anticipated .
Many argue that we are the reasons for the pollutants, while others argue that
groundwater does more damage than good. Still others argue that the groundwater may cause
problems but is necessary for our survival. A majority of people believe out of all water sources,
and locations, groundwater would be the least polluted due to its highly sheltered location.
However, groundwater, especially in Utah, may be the most vulnerable of all other sources.
Suzanne Hecker , a biologist and scientist, quotes a geological survey taken in 1983,
Ground water is unconsolidated deposits...occurring under unconfined and confined conditions
and frequently occurs in geologic units, known as aquifers... which yield water in usable
quantities to wells or springs ( q.d Hecker 3). Groundwater can occur naturally in caves,
underground, or even in rocks. However Shallow ground water in rock is much less common in
Utah. In the state of Utah, ground water is common in the Wasatch Range around the Provo and
weber rivers (Hecker 12). It occurs around lakes and rivers, making groundwater a main
contributor in Utah. Throughout earth's history however, ground water can fluctuate daily,
seasonally, annually, or over vast periods of time in response to its surroundings and the current
conditions (Hecker 3). This makes groundwater not only a major variable to the environment, but
also it is constantly interacting with the urban world.
One argument is that shallow groundwater has posed plenty of threats and implications
for the urban world. Its frequent irregularity and severity has caused chaos for most. The most
popular hazard groundwater has created is the frequent flooding of basements and storage
facilities. However, its constant flooding of septic tanks and landfills has caused much damage to
the population. Many believe these rising levels of ground water tend to lead to rise in local
groundwater pollution and migrating contaminants. Although groundwater is not very significant
for drinking water, the constant flooding can interfere with underlying aquifers and tamper with
the quality of drinking water in urban areas. Also the flooding of landfills due to groundwater,
has led to an increase in pollution within lakes and streams. In addition, Fahys Judy, a journalist
for the Salt Lake Tribune and a highly credited writer, explains not only is there a over flooding
of these groundwater aquifers, but also a large chemical plume has contaminated aquifers in the
Salt Lake Valley. The plume, tainted by mining dregs, is one of the largest groundwater cleanups
in the nation. It is planned to become a 61.3 million dollar cleanup and debate among mine
regulators. (Judy 1.) However, groundwater does not only pose a threat of over flooding; it also
threatens foundations and transportation facilities throughout construction. Many sites must be
evacuated and de-watered before they can start because the water creates lack of foundation
stability but also makes working conditions difficult (Hecker 12.)
Others argue that although groundwater can create hazards and problems for the majority
of the developed population, the population also creates a bigger problem for ground water. The
amount of pollutants and contaminants occurring in groundwater is astounding, and the number
is only getting higher. In a recent water report given by Utah Lake officials, it explains that
water, especially ground water, is suffering from extreme oxygen depletion due to the increase of
algae and aquatic plants that feed off the increasing numbers of pollutant in the water. A survey
taken about Utah Lake states that other pollutants are those of pathogenic microbes, organic
material, pesticides, and heavy metals (Utah Lake7.) These pollutants are found heavily in
deposits scattered throughout Utah Lake, but are also in areas of ground water.
Nonpoint pollution sources such as waste and litter from recreation areas, treated sewage,
household chemicals, toxins, oils, heavy metals, chemicals from agriculture, and sedimentation,
are all sources and contaminants throughout Utah water. These are usually acquired from point
sources of industries in close proximity to the lakes and water sources themselves. Within these
arguments, is is believed that man made materials cause serious damage to the groundwater, and
continue to pollute the environment. (Utah Lake 10).
However, a plethora of accounts of oil spills and personal drainage into waters have been
recorded. In an article from Deseret News, an example of this is the two failures of chevron pipe
lines resulting in 1,300 barrels of oil being spilled into water waters of valleys. Also 40 barrels of
crude oil has been dumped into the strawberry river, with it spreading into the Duchesne River
(Desert 1). A lot of people are worried about the amount of different toxins being released into
Utah waters.
One of these is Selenium. Fahys Judy explains in her article titled, Water Cleanup
Options Narrowed For Salt Lake Valley In Utah, that Selenium, which can be toxic in large
doses, already has high deposits in rivers that feed into the Great Salt Lake. Also many
lawmakers have proposed for the benefit of water, Utah and 16 other states have prohibited high
levels of phosphorus in dishwashing detergent. However many people such as environmentalists
and Judy find that this miniature act is not enough to protect our water, or ensure great natural
Levels of chlorophyll, Ammonia, Phosphorus, Nitrate and Silica have all only increased
within Utah water counts since 1991 (Utah Lake 9). These chemicals along with many others
are being poured into waters around Utah. These mass influxes of toxins have disturbed the
quality of Utah groundwater and drinking water. As long as actions are being made the same
way they are now, Utah water will soon become too toxic for human consumption. Those who
argue that man is the ultimate destroyer of groundwater believe that groundwater, a valuable, but
hazardous element is suffering due to the urban population, but is also a thriving element in
Utah's history. Man must find a way to find a balance between nature and technology.
Lastly, an equally important factor limiting the quality, value and respect for water, as
well as groundwater, is the constant debates and ideas towards water rights and water clean ups.
Many argue towards different ways that this should be done because many factors come into
play when deciding a plan. For example, as mentioned before, the chemical plume that occurred
in the groundwater of the Salt Lake Valley has been projected to become a $61.3 million cleanup
plus added cost adding to about $130 million. However, it has also been a 13 year debate among
the state and federal regulators and the Kennecott Copper Com. New plants needed to be built
for decontamination of the water, but funds are limited. However, the best option is a $94 million
distillation plant, which is 10x more the amount the valley is willing to pay (Judy 1-2).
The price is not the only debating factor however. Researchers are arguing about the best
way to decontaminate and filter water that would get us the most bang for its buck. Many
theories have been made, such as plants, filter guards, and tanks, yet none have really found an
answer. This can be partly due to not only a local fight but a worldwide fight about water rights.
Utah's Division of Water Rights proclaims that, "All waters in Utah are public property. A --
water right-- right to divert (remove from its natural source) and beneficially use water" (Water
Rights 1).
Lastly, in my opinion, pollution of groundwater is not only polluted by humans, but also
wasted. How can we blame pollution and the lack of freshwater resources on something other
than ourselves. We continually believe that one day our issues will be fix on their own, but how
can they be? Using unsafe processes that pollute our water everyday and chemicals that science
has provided is not helping us in anyway. However, we must use our knowledge about science
and the effects that certain chemicals and industries have on the environment to save our ground
water. We all use water; to bath, to drink, to play in, and to enjoy, so as a united people, water
must become our main priority, both in the science world and the social world. It affects
However, as it is common knowledge to believe water is a basic human right, is the access
to fresh and healthy water one? Can we fix it? This is the ongoing debate about who deserves
water and what kind. This is just as important to the safety of water, as are the careful solutions
of contamination. Utah ground water is just as much as a part of the water rights and cleanup as
regular fresh water. This only adds to the difficulties groundwater brings but also receives,
because of the added precautions and restriction on it. However, although in spite of the added
costs of water clean up and the issue of water rights, contaminants are continuing to multiple
within Utah aquifers. A effective and fairly cheap remedy for the contamination is going to need
to become a reality in the distant future. If not, water across the nation, not only Utah, we suffer,
resulting in the suffrage of the human population (Hecker).
Groundwater, the hidden water contained in caves or rock, flows beneath Utah's surface,
seemingly uncovered by urban population. It too receives the harsh effects of toxic chemicals,
and often faces the hardship of polluting factories. It remains an important source of water, one
that helps irrigation and sewage. However, this delicate system of groundwater has continued to
diminish over time. The human population is introducing new forms of harsh toxic treatments
into the groundwater daily.
Water is an organism's daily necessity, a prized aspect of the world. However, through
modern advances and technology, the focus on the value of water has shifted, undermining the
importance of a healthy water source. People argue about the importance of groundwater, and
whether we care about its outcome. Every source of water, from lakes to little streams, are
contaminated with harsh substances. This contamination has created daily struggles among the
ecosystem but also the urban population. The fight for clean water or even access to any of it has
become an issue in today's world. Statistics recorded in a CLR search on groundwater in utah
compared to the nation suggest that groundwater has become an innocent victim of the cruel
consequences of poor filtration and water quality policies, and it will continue to be treated this
way if solutions are not put into action soon (CLR.)
Utah, with its entire grandeur and glory, has a dark side, hidden under its crust. The secret
flows from place to place, absorbing the evils of chemicals and toxins. This secret is the harsh
reality of Groundwater, and its qualities. It is an ongoing debate whether we can fix groundwater
and come up with a unanimous plan to fix it. However, sadly it will stay a secret until the world
reveals it and all its glory. May we ever find a way to clean our water, so it must not need to be a
secret ever again?