The City of Orem regularly samples the water system to make sure citizens are getting the highest quality water that it can provide. With a dynamic water system such as the City of Orem’s, the water does not always come out of the tap as good tasting and clean, as it should. City personnel are continuously trying to stop these problems from occurring, but even with our best efforts they sometimes do happen. While most common home water quality concerns do not pose a health risk, we know you still want your water to taste, look and smell as good as possible. Most of the problems that may occur in the home are simple to treat, and can be quickly resolved. Use the information on this page to learn about which water quality concerns are safety risks, and which ones you can easily treat to improve your water's taste, color and odor.
If you don't see your water quality concern listed here, please call Public Works at 229-7570. If it is after business hours contact Public Safety at 229-7070.
Drinking Water Source Protection Plan
The groundwater that is used by the City’s wells is pumped from deposits of sand and gravel deep below the City. The water from Orem’s spring collection areas is produced by snow and glacial melt from Mt TimpanogosThis water flows through the ground until eventually emerging from the rock formations that make up the walls of Provo Canyon. These spring collection areas are isolated from public use to maintain their quality. The City of Orem has a Drinking Water Source Protection Plan (DWSP) that is designed to protect the integrity of our drinking water supplies and system. The City also works in conjunction with the Central Utah Water Conservancy District (CUWCD) water purification plant to help maintain Orem’s high quality of water.
Wellhead Protection Zones are a part of the City of Orem Water Utility's Drinking Water Source Protection (DWSP) effort. These zones indicate groundwater travel times for culinary wells within the city boundaries. Groundwater travel times are an indication of contamination hazard for city wells. For example, if a pollutant was dumped within the yellow (3 year) zone, that pollutant would travel to and contaminate a culinary well within 3 years.
The general types of potential contamination sources that exist within the DWSP Zones for Orem’s wells and springs include sewer lines, golf courses, unimproved and improved roads, residential properties, and industrial/commercial areas. These potential contamination sources are adequately controlled by our commitment to an aggressive watershed protection program, which we consider our first line of defense in assuring the quality of your drinking water.
Residents and businesses should notify Orem City of any accidents or hazardous waste spills that occur within the City or canyon areas. Residents and businesses should also take an active role in protecting their drinking water sources through the proper use, storage, and disposal of fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, cleaners, fuels, oils, and household chemicals. These safeguards and other requirements are addressed in our Watershed Protection Ordinance, which is an important component of our DWSP Plan.
During 2008 the city collected nearly 1,414 bacteriologic routine water samples annually. Routine samples are collected at various locations throughout the City. These samples determine chlorine residual and water quality. The City of Orem has never failed a routine sample! The city collected 31 investigative bacteriologic samples from residences and business that had concerns about water quality. 398 Investigative samples were collected on all new water line installations to ensure the quality of the line and verify the absence of bacteriologic organisms. All of the sampled areas came back with no bacteriological problems.
Earthy Taste or Odor
Water turnovers in the early spring and late fall can affect the algae in our storage reservoirs like Deer Creek and Jordanelle. This can potentially be a source of earthy tastes in the water. In periods of drought where water levels are low, currents bring algae from the bottom of the lakes to the surface, affecting the CUWCD water treatment facility on the east bench of Orem. The plant does all it can to mitigate the problem but some citizens are still affected. The water from the plant is clean to drink and poses no health risk.
The best way to reduce the earthy taste and odor is to flush the cold faucet of the bathtub for several minutes or until color and turbidity disappears. Then collect this freshened water into a clean container suitable for beverages, cover or cap it, and store it in the refrigerator for future drinking and cooking purposes. A few drops of lemon juice or a slice of lemon can also help improve the taste. If the taste and odor are still present, you may want to consider a home filter.
Uncolored Cloudy Water
This is most commonly, though not always, accompanied by sputtering from the faucet. If you have preformed recent plumbing work, it is probably air trapped when the water refilled the empty plumbing. This should clear as the water is used. If others in the neighborhood have a similar problem, especially where Orem personnel or contractors have been working on the mains, the problem may be the result of air trapped in a water main or from fine silt, which has been stirred up. If it is silt, it should settle out with time, and flushing the cold-water tap in your home may help to alleviate the problem.
Yellow, Orange or Reddish Brown Water
Brown or Black Muddy Water
Gray sediment, especially from the hot water tap, may be coming from the hot water tank, which can be overheating. You may want to call a plumber if it continues.
If the sediment consists of visible particles from the cold-water tap and you have recently installed or replaced an in-line water filter, the material may be charcoal from the filter.
Care should be taken with surfaces on old tubs and sinks that are worn, as some rust removal compounds on the market, may cause damage to the finish of porcelain fixtures.
What is Cryptosporidium?
Cryptosporidium is a parasite commonly found in lakes and rivers that can cause gastro-intestinal disease. The reservoirs that Orem gets its water from are common locations where Cryptosporidium can be found, the Central Utah Water Conservancy Districts Water Purification Plant provides treatment to remove Cryptosporidium making the water safe to drink. Local and national health agencies recommend that you follow the guidelines below if you have a weakened immune system (immune-compromised).
Guidelines for people with weakened immune systems
If you think you may be at risk for Cryptosporidiosis or have more questions regarding the parasite, contact your health care provider, or a local or national health agency. Consult with your health care provider about what measures would be most appropriate and effective for reducing the overall risk from Cryptosporidium. If you wish to take extra measures to avoid Cryptosporidiosis, bring your drinking water to a rolling boil for one minute. This is the most effective approach for killing the parasite.
Alternatives to boiling water include
A point-of-use (personal use, end-of-tap, under sink) filter. Only point-of-use filters that remove particles one micron or less in diameter should be considered (absolute one micron, NOT nominal). Some bottled waters derived from protected groundwater supplies, such as protected wells and protected springs, are less likely to be contaminated by Cryptosporidium. Any bottled water treated by distillation or reverse osmosis before bottling is expected to have had effective Cryptosporidium removal. Do not assume that all bottled waters are free of the parasite.
Links to other sites
Orem’s drinking water sources do not contain lead. However, the most common cause of lead in a water system is lead leaching into water from home plumbing systems built with lead-based solder, brass fixtures, or some types of zinc coatings used on galvanized pipes and fittings. Lead does not affect newer homes. These are required to have lead free plumbing. Older homes prior to 1980 may be affected.
Determine if your home is high risk
The Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of lead-based materials in 1986 homes plumbed with copper after this date were required to be plumbed with tin-antimony (instead of tin-lead) solder or lead-free material. Homes built before this date has a possibility of lead in their systems. Homes that were built before 1986 and have been remodeled should have replaced older plumbing components with lead free components to comply with new standards. Where you live, when your plumbing was installed, and what type of plumbing you have, all play a part in determining your potential exposure level. Some older homes have a risk of lead contamination in water that sits in pipes for longer than 2 hours. The City of Orem maintains a lead testing program, where homes throughout Orem are selected based upon the homes age, type of plumbing, and location. The results of this testing can be found in the Consumer Confidence Report
Reduce your lead exposure
If your home has the potential for lead in its plumbing system, there are a few simple steps you can take in the home to reduce the risk of lead in your drinking water:
If water has been standing in pipes for over 2 hours, flush out the pipes by running the tap until you feel a temperature change before using the water for drinking or cooking, usually two or three minutes. To save water, use the water you flush out for watering plants or doing dishes.
Always draw drinking and cooking water from cold-water tap -- lead dissolves more quickly in hot water.
Never make baby formula or other drinks or food for children from the HOT water tap. Start with water taken from the cold-water faucet (after flushing) and warm it if necessary.
If you are making plumbing changes, be sure to select low-lead or no-lead fixtures.
Some consumers use hardness as a measure of the quality of the water they receive. Hardness is a characteristic of water caused mainly by the presence of calcium and magnesium. Excessive concentrations of these minerals tend to inhibit the cleaning action of soap, cause deposits in boilers and hot water heaters, and interfere with many industrial processes. Customers often complain about the difficulties in doing the laundry and washing dishes. Also, excessively hard water can coat the insides of pipes and distribution mains and eventually restrict flow.
Hardness is often expressed in terms of mg/L as calcium carbonate. There are different opinions on where the dividing line is between soft and hard water, but some textbooks define hard water as water with hardness greater than 100 mg/L as calcium carbonate.The most popular method of hardness removal is the ion exchange process. Many customers might have one of these units in their home and refer to it as a "water softener". This process also has some other benefits such as removal of small amounts of iron and manganese, and radioactivity that might be in the water. On the negative side, soft water can increase the rate of corrosion of metal pipes, and can increase bacteriological growth in home water softeners.
Since the ion exchange process exchanges calcium and magnesium ions for sodium ions, there are some concerns about raising the levels of sodium in the water. This could be a problem for persons on sodium-restricted diets. On the average Orem’s water is 160 parts per million or 16 grains per gallon for water softener settings.
Choosing a Home Water Filter
Reasons to filter
The water that the City of Orem produces meets all current drinking water standards. Due to minerals from sources or from aging plumbing systems some people chose to treat their water to improve aesthetic qualities, such as taste and odor. Others filter their water because they are concerned about water safety. The City does not endorse or has not contracted with any company to distribute filtration units to homeowners. The water we provide is of a high enough quality that further filtration is often not necessary the decision to filter your water is entirely up to you.
If you choose to filter
If you decide to install a filter in your home, it is important to do it right. Some filters have been found to actually increase the levels of chemicals in your water. To minimize such a risk from filters: If you are unsure or have no experience is plumbing, contact a licensed plumber to make sure that the device is installed correctly.Only purchase filters that are certified by NSF, International. Maintain your home filtering system regularly. Home water filters may be effective at removing some contaminants, but if not regularly cleaned and maintained, they can become a breeding ground for microbes and decrease the quality of the water.
Types of filters
There are three types of water purification systems to consider: distillers, reverse osmosis systems, and carbon filter systems:
Distillers boil water, and then cool the steam, so that it condenses into water again. This removes almost all contaminants. Keep in mind that as distillers remove chlorine, they also remove the continued protection chlorine provides against microbiological contaminants in your water. A distiller is easy to install. Once installed, a distiller takes up to seven hours to purify a gallon of water. A distiller has a low initial price but is costly to maintain.
Reverse osmosis effectively removes disinfection’s byproducts and particulate lead from the water. Cold water passes through an initial filter, removing larger sediment, and then through a semi-permeable membrane, which traps impurities and let’s clean water through. Contaminants and beneficial components, such as fluoride, are washed down the drain. Unfortunately, reverse osmosis takes time and wastes a lot of water in the purification process, which runs counter to our City’s goal of water conservation. These systems are expensive and may require professional installation.
Carbon filters clean water by trapping and absorbing contaminants by physical and chemical means. Chlorine, as well as other contaminants which may cause undesirable odor or flavor, are removed by the activated carbon. These systems are the most popular filters on the market today.
There are some aesthetic problems that can be removed without filtration. Chlorine can easily be eliminated from drinking water by filling a water container and placing it in a refrigerator. The chlorine will vent harmlessly into the air and you will have a cold glass of water.
Clogged FilterAging water lines with in the cities system along with deterioration of galvanized plumbing within the home can clog filters. Rust and other debris can slow the production of your filter. To alleviate the filter-clogging problem, an inexpensive pre-filter can be installed. The pre-filter can then be removed, cleaned with a brush or just replaced with a new one. This technique along with regular maintenance will increase the life of your filter and protect expensive equipment.
Hot Water from Cold Water Faucet
If you don’t have a properly installed pressure relief valve, pressure can build in the tank. This is a potential threat to life and property and shouldn’t be ignored. Note that most recent hot water tank installations and replacements include the provision of a relief valve and expansion tanks.
Consumer Confidence Reports
Additional Water Quality Links