pH is a measurement of the acidity or basicity of the water. We measure the pH on a scale of 0 to 14. Distilled water, which is neutral, has a pH of 7.  pH values below 7 indicate acidic solutions and those above 7 indicate basic solutions. For more information on pH read Understanding Your Watershed: pH.

We want to protect the pH of lakes and streams because they are the source of many people's drinking water.  The pH of water is also critical for the organisms that live in the water.  Most fish and aquatic insects have difficulty surviving outside the healthy range of freshwater pH.  Lakes and streams in Utah should be between 6.5 to 9.0.  The pH of the Great Salt Lake is normally much lower than freshwater lakes.  Some bays in the Great Salt Lake have naturally occurring pH values as low as 4.0! 

Many things can affect the pH of the water, like watershed geology, seasonal trends, and photosynthesis of plants. For instance, limestone rock contains minerals which buffer streams (found throughout central and northern Utah). If there are pine or fir forests in the watershed, there is usually lower, more acidic, pH value for the watershed. Natural, unpolluted rain and snow is slightly acidic (pH between 5 and 6). Additionally, the lowest pH levels will occur just before sunrise, because during the day photosynthesis of aquatic plants removes carbon dioxide from the water thus raising the pH of the stream. Visit our pH information page for more information on natural and human factors that influence pH.

Below are the steps to measure pH:




Remove a test strip from the container and then reseal the container

Place colored end of test strip in the water for 30 seconds

Remove test strip from the water and shake off excess water.  Wait 2 minutes for the strip to fully react

Compare test strip to the color guide and select the closest color match. Record the pH