Watersheds in the Salt Lake Valley

Various canyons along the Wasatch Front have been designated as protected watershed areas in order to protect water for the Salt Lake City area. Over 60% of the water used by residents of the Salt Lake Valley comes from canyons in the Wasatch Mountains. Regulations have been enacted so this vital source of culinary water will be kept clean.

Information on this page can help you understand these regulations and make your visit to the canyons more enjoyable.

Protected Watershed Areas Include:

  • all of Little Cottonwood Canyon
  • all of Big Cottonwood Canyon
  • all of Parley's Canyon, north and east of Mountain Dell Reservoir
  • all of Little Dell Canyon (toward East Canyon)
  • all of Lamb's Canyon
  • all of City Creek Canyon

Watershed Regulations:

Salt Lake City - County Health Regulation #14 (watersheds) is authorized by Utah Code Annotated 26-24-20.

It is unlawful for any person:

  • to permit a dog (s) to be taken into the watershed area. This does not apply to seeing eye/hearing dogs or law enforcement dogs.
  • to pollute or allow pollution of any water in the watershed area.
  • to operate any type of motor vehicle upon the property within the watershed except on a highway or road open for public use, approved roads in residential/cabin areas, official picnic/camp area roads, and ski area parking lots. Emergency and official government vehicles are exempt when on official business.
  • to deposit any human excreta within the watershed area other than into approved toilets. Cesspools are also prohibited.
  • to permit a horse or any other domestic animal into the area without a permit.
  • to camp overnight except in officially designated campgrounds. This does not apply to backpacking.
  • to backpack camp unless the campsite is located over 200 feet from the nearest water source
  • to bathe, swim or wash clothes, diapers, eating utensils, or any other object in any spring, marsh, stream, or other water source.
  • to throw or break glass.

These regulations apply in the entire canyon area from ridge top to ridge top, not just in the immediate area of surface water.

Special Considerations:

There are special regulations governing construction, sewage work, livestock operations, underground waste-water systems, and water systems.

Permanent residents of the canyon watershed areas may obtain special permits for one dog per household. The responsibilities and qualifications for the permit are very strict. For further information on these matters call the Salt Lake City - County Health Department at 530-7500 or Department of Public Utilities at 483-6705.

"Keep It Pure" Watershed Education Campaign:

Salt Lake City Public Utilities and the Salt Lake Ranger District are starting an exciting and extensive Watershed education and awareness program along the Wasatch Front called "Keep It Pure". The source water areas, called the ":Protected Watersheds", include City Creek, Parley's, Big Cottonwood and Little Cottonwood Canyons. Protecting the water quality of these source water canyon areas is essential for all of us! With an increasing number of visitors to the canyon areas, it is critical that we protect our watershed areas so we continue to have high quality drinking water.

If you would like to know more about the Salt Lake City-Wasatch Front Watershed, please visit the "Keep It Pure" web site.


Water regulations are enforced by the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office, the Salt Lake City Water Department, the Salt Lake City - County Health Department, the US Forest Service, and the Alta Marshal's Office.

Violations constitute a Class "B" misdemeanor and in most cases a citation is issued to violators.

*This information was taken off a brochure prepared by the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office.

We hope this information is helpful and makes your visit to the canyons more enjoyable!

Protect Your Watershed!