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South Jordan Journal

The Desert State: SoJo takes steps towards water efficiency

Apr 12, 2024 11:32AM ● By Bailey Chism

When people think of Utah, they think “desert,” and during years with little snowpack, they’re not wrong. Today, Utah is widely known as the second driest state in the country. South Jordan leadership has been looking ahead for a long time now, wanting to provide for the city, and help guide the state towards a water-secure future. 

South Jordan has now announced the opening of a first-of-its-kind water purification facility. 

Amid growth in Utah, unpredictable snowpack and concerns about the Great Salt Lake, the city of South Jordan looked to secure the future of its water supply. The city has been planning for more than a decade on what they can do to secure a water supply without a water source, and city officials developed a unique educational demonstration facility for water purification. 

“This project, to recycle and purify reclaimed water to drinking water standards, has been many years in the making,” South Jordan Mayor Dawn Ramsey said. “When your goal is to have a sustainable water supply for the future as you grow, you have to get innovative, work with all partners at your disposal and find solutions.” 

They call the project Pure SoJo. It investigates a process that could eventually become official and add to the city’s water portfolio. South Jordan is the first city in the state to be issued a drinking water permit for recycled water after extensive scientific testing and working with other partners. 

“It's a new concept and a new idea, something that might be unfamiliar to a lot of people, but this facility will serve to educate the public, to educate water managers and school kids,” Jason Rasmussen said, the assistant city manager. 

The State Division of Drinking Water issued the city a special permit to operate the project and begin to purify recycled water. The city will be working closely with state officials, including sharing water sample test data for treated water. 

South Jordan currently imports 100% of its water because they don’t have a local water source of their own. They do this because the groundwater is contaminated and will take up to 40 years to clean. They started Pure SoJo because of the rapid growth the valley is seeing, and city officials want to plan for future water supply by investigating other sources. 

“We’ve proven that this process is safe, reliable and sustainable and the state of Utah agrees,” Ramsey said. 

The water used at Pure SoJo comes from the South Valley Reclamation plant, where it is cleaned to an irrigation water standard before going into the advanced purification process at the demonstration facility that brings it to drinking water quality. The water won’t go into people’s homes, as it is being used only for educational purposes right now. But one day that could change. 

So, why recycled water? South Jordan city officials looked at the city’s demand and needed to look at every available source, and that includes recycling water. They believe the purification of recycled water will be necessary in the western United States, including Utah, to meet water demands for growing populations and the trend of decreased water supply. 

The project was started back in 2019, when South Jordan city staff saw the growth of the valley and the inconsistency of the water from snowpack runoff. Several states, including California and Florida, already use recycled water. The purification process was recognized by the International Water Association as a market-changing water technology for 2018. 

The Pure SoJo facility was made for educational tours so people can come see how the process of purification works. The facility has been finished and running since March 2022, but not open to the public. The facility opened March 21 and they will be holding public tours on the first and third Thursday of every month. The tours will focus on the role that water recycling can play to meet the state’s water supply needs, how technology is used to purify recycled water and how the economics of water recycling make sense to consider this source for future water supply. 

“Mark my words, I believe 20 years from now we will see this technology employed in communities across the state and a lot more communities around the country as the entire West deals with a water shortage,” Ramsey said. λ