History of Provo Canyon

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Provo River Project

The Provo River Project provides a supplemental water supply for irrigation of 48,156 acres of highly developed farmlands in Utah, Salt Lake, and Wasatch Counties, as well as an assured domestic water supply for Salt Lake City, Provo, Orem, Pleasant Grove, Lindon, American Fork, and Lehi, Utah. The key structure of the project, Deer Creek Dam, is located on the Provo River east of the project lands.

Other major structures are the powerplant at the dam, the 42-mile Salt Lake Aqueduct and Terminal Reservoir, Weber-Provo Diversion Canal, Duchesne Tunnel, Murdock Diversion Dam, Provo Reservoir Canal Enlargement, Jordan Narrows Siphon and Pumping Plant, and the South Lateral. The Salt Lake Aqueduct and Terminal Reservoir make up the Aqueduct Division; all other features are included in the Deer Creek Division.

PlanThe Deer Creek Reservoir stores Provo River floodwater, surplus water of the Weber River diverted by the enlarged Weber-Provo Diversion Canal, and surplus water from the headwaters of the Duchesne River diverted by the 6-mile Duchesne Tunnelevation Releases from the reservoir for the Aqueduct Division are diverted at the dam into the Salt Lake Aqueduct, which carries water to a point near Salt Lake City to supple ment the city’s supply.

The Provo Reservoir Canal takes water from the Provo River at the Murdock Diversion Dam, about 7 miles downstream of the storage dam. This 23-mile-long canal serves the 46,609 acres in the Deer Creek Division. The Jordan Narrows Siphon and Pumping Plant furnishes water from the Provo Reservoir Canal and Jordan River to lands on the west side of Utah Lake and the Jordan River. The South Lateral delivers water supplies from the Jordan Narrows pump to the area south of the pump and west of the Jordan River. Deer Creek Powerplant generates 4,950 kilowatts of power.

Deer Creek Dam and Reservoir

Deer Creek Dam is located on the Provo River about 16 miles northeast of Provo, Utah. It is a zoned earthfill structure 235 feet high with a crest length of 1,304 feet. The dam contains 2,810,000 cubic yards of material and forms a reservoir of 152,700 acre-foot capacity. The spillway is a concrete chute at the right abutment controlled by two radial gates. The capacity of the spillway is 12,000 cubic feet per second. The outlet works through the left abutment is a concrete-lined tunnel from the trashrack to the gate chamber, where two steel pipes lead to the powerplant. Releases are controlled by two tube valves. The outlet works has a capacity of 1,500 cubic feet per second.

Collection System

The principal features of the collection system are the Duchesne Diversion Dam, Duchesne Tunnel, Weber-Provo Diversion Dam, and Weber-Provo Diversion Canal. The Duchesne Diversion Dam is on the North Fork of the Duchesne River, about 30 miles east of Heber City, Utah. The dam is a rockfill weir, concrete-core wall structure, 23 feet high, with a weir crest length of 270 feet. The 600-cubic-foot-per-second Duchesne Tunnel, which carries water from the diversion dam to the Provo River drainage basin, is horseshoe-shaped, concrete-lined, 9.25 feet in diameter, and 6 miles long.

The Weber-Provo Diversion Dam and Canal, originally a part of the Weber River Project, have been enlarged to supply water from the Weber River to the Deer Creek Reservoir on the Provo River. The dam, located 1 mile east of Oakley, Utah, is a concrete ogee overflow weir with embankment wings, and has a hydraulic height of 19 feet. The canal has a capacity of 1,000 cubic feet per second and a length of 9 miles, consisting of unlined, earth-lined, and concrete-lined sections..

Aqueduct Division

The principal feature of the Aqueduct Division is the Salt Lake Aqueduct, a 69-inch-diameter concrete pipeline 41.7 miles long, with a capacity of 150 cubic feet per second. Through this pipeline flows the domestic water supply for Salt Lake City. Two tunnels are a part of the aqueduct: The concrete-lined, 78-inch-diameter, horseshoe-shaped Alpine-Draper Tunnel which is 15,037 feet long; and the Olmstead Tunnel, identical in cross section with the Alpine-Draper Tunnel, but 3,614 feet long. The concrete terminal reservoir, with a capacity of 122.8 acre-feet, completes the system..

Deer Creek Division

Deer Creek Division structures include Murdock Diversion Dam, a concrete ogee weir structure, 22 feet high; Provo Reservoir Canal, with a diversion capacity of 550 cubic feet per second and a total length of 23 miles, consisting of unlined and concrete-lined sections; the 65-cubic-foot-per-second capacity Jordan Narrows Pumping Plant; and the South Lateral, with a capacity of 40 cubic feet per second and a length of about 4 miles.


Utah Lake supplied irrigation water for some areas in the Salt Lake Valley; however, during the drought years 1931-35, storage in Utah Lake fell from 850,000 to 20,000 acre-feet. It became apparent that construction of the Provo River Project was essential to provide an adequate water supply. The project plan resulted from extensive investigations conducted at various times after 1922 by the Bureau of Reclamation in cooperation with the Water Storage Commission of Utah. The desperate water shortage experienced by Salt Lake City in the 1930’s and the consequent request to the Government for assistance in obtaining a dependable water supply for Salt Lake Valley gave rise to a concerted effort to obtain approval of the Provo River Project. The city of Provo and five other communities in Utah County, as well as Salt Lake City, all needing additional domestic water supplies, joined with the irrigation interests to sponsor the project.


Construction of the project was initiated under the provisions of the National Industrial Recovery Act of June 16, 1933, and approved by the President on November 16, 1935, under the terms of subsection B of section 4 of the act of December 5, 1924 (43 Stat. 701). The Salt Lake Aqueduct was approved by the President on October 24, 1938. Deer Creek Powerplant was found feasible and authorized by the Secretary of the Interior on August 20, 1951, under the Reclamation Project Act of 1939.


Construction of the project began in May 1938, the first water becoming available in 1941 upon the completion of Deer Creek Dam. Construction of some features of the project was severely hampered by wartime scarcities of manpower, materials, and funds. Work on the Duchesne Tunnel had to be stopped in 1942, although construction continued on a small scale on the canal system and Salt Lake Aqueduct. In 1947, full-scale construction was resumed. Construction of features of the Aqueduct Division was started in 1939 and completed in 1951. The Deer Creek Powerplant was completed in 1958.

Operating Agencies

All features of the Deer Creek Division are operated and maintained by the Provo River Water Users Association. The Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake City operates and maintains the aqueduct system. The Western Area Power Administration, CRSP Management Center, maintains Project switchyard facilities and markets the power output from the powerplant.

Updated and upgraded

That green pipeline that has snaked along the upper reaches of Provo Canyon for at least half a century will soon become a thing of the past.

A replacement of the Olmsted Flowline will update that portion of the Central Utah Project water delivery system.

The cost: A cool $40 million.

Starting in November — with a 2004 completion date — work crews will begin replacing the flow line from the Olmsted Diversion Dam. The flow line will be built to go six miles down-river from Deer Creek Reservoir to a new concrete underground reservoir near the mouth of Provo Canyon.

The work has to be done in the winter — from November to March — while demand is down, said David Pitcher, chief engineer for the Central Utah Project.

Much of the water that flows through the Olmsted Flowline ends up at the Utah Valley Water Treatment Plant, which was just expanded and updated in a $18.9 million project.

The treatment plant expansion — equipped with new monitoring and security systems — increased the amount of water Provo and Orem can receive each day. 

Previously, the plant pushed through 42 million gallons a day. Now, 80 million gallons come through the pipes.

Security measures began before the 2002 Winter Olympic Games and intensified after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

“(The security system) is one of the most sophisticated in North America,” Pitcher said this week.

The outcome of an upcoming security audit could result in increasing security even more throughout Utah’s largest water district, water officials say.

The philosophy behind the Utah Valley Water Treatment plant is to keep ahead of federal drinking water regulations, treatment plant manager Dave Hardy said. Treated water passes through 17 million gallons of storage tanks before flowing through residents’ water faucets.

Planning began in 1996 as new regulations were looming. But officials also wanted to update the aging system. Construction started in 2000.

“The regs are ever tightening,” Hardy said. “I like to think the expanded capacity just came along for the ride.”

Crews added four filtering systems and rehabilitated the eight existing filters. They also replaced underground chemical storage facilities and added a second reclamation building.

The system also went from manual operation to a computerized system. A chlorine scrubber was added as a safety precaution in case of a chlorine leak.

“We’ve been in operation for 23 years and (a leak) has never happened,” Pitcher said.

If dangerous chlorine gas leaked from the south Orem bench treatment plant, it could spill over into the homes below, treatment operations manager Gerard Yates said, but the chlorine scrubber should prevent that kind of accident by absorbing the gas.

When the plant was first built, only orchards spread out in the valley below.

Providing Water for Provo and Salt Lake City

The Alpine and Jordan Aqueducts deliver project M&I water to users in the metropolitan Salt Lake, Orem and Provo communities. Previously existing facilities – the Olmsted Diversion and Union Aqueduct – located on the Provo River about 14 miles downstream from Jordanelle Reservoir, have been acquired by the federal government to divert Jordanelle Reservoir releases into the two new CUP aqueducts. The 21-mile long Alpine Aqueduct ties into the old Union Aqueduct, tunnels through a nearby ridge then continues in a 5 to 7.5 feet diameter buried concrete pipeline to the Utah Valley Water Treatment Plant in north Orem, Utah. Treated water is then delivered from the plant to north Utah County communities by a continuation of the Alpine Aqueduct, branching reaches, and various other distribution systems.

This application seeks to appropriate 400 second-feet of the surplus flows of the Provo River at the existing Olmsted and/or Murdock Diversion Dams as described in paragraph 2. The major purpose of this application is to supply municipal and industrial water to the municipalities along the Wasatch Front extending from Provo City on the south to Salt Lake City on the north. Water diverted under this application will be subject to the terms of the 1990 Olmsted Condemnation Settlement Agreement. The water appropriated under this application will be delivered directly or by exchange through existing canals and conduits to the extent possible and new facilities will be constructed as necessary to serve the project requirements. The water to be used for municipal and industrial purposes will be diverted into the existing Olmsted flowline at the Olmsted Diversion Dam and conveyed through the Alpine Aqueduct Reach 1 to either the Jordan Aqueduct or to the Utah Valley Water Purification Plant. The water conveyed to the Utah Valley Water Purification Plant will be delivered through the Alpine Aqueduct System to distribution lines in Northern Utah County. The water conveyed by the Jordan Aqueduct System will be treated and delivered to the distribution lines on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley. The water may also be diverted at the Murdock Diversion Dam and delivered via the Murdock Canal to CUP petitioners in north Utah and Salt Lake Counties.

The Alpine and Jordan Aqueducts connect to the Olmsted Flowline to form the primary transmission network of the M&I System. CUP water is conveyed from the Olmsted Flowline in Provo Canyon to the Alpine Aqueduct Reach 1(AA-1) through the Alpine Tunnel. The AA-1 pipeline conveys water to a turnout to the Utah Valley Water Treatment Plant and connects to the Jordan Aqueduct Reach 4 (JA-4) pipeline that delivers raw water into Salt Lake County.

A 5,000-foot-long tunnel is to replace a segment of the Olmstead Aqueduct that crosses a slide area and is occasionally damaged by landslides. The green pipeline runs the length of the canyon and was used by Utah Power & Light Co. to supply water to the Olmstead hydroelectric power plant at the mouth of the canyon until it was condemned in August 1987 by the Bureau of Reclamation for use in the Central Utah Project.


“The conservancy district is spending $11 million to bury approximately one mile of the green pipe, located three miles up Provo Canyon above the Canyon Glen picnic area.

The stretch is located through a major landslide area and will be installed in a tunnel behind the slipping surface to prevent any further damage, Talbot said. The pipe from the tunnel will then tie into exposed pipe located behind the plane of slippage.

“There’s a lot of landslide in that area,” he said. “During extreme wet conditions (as in 1985) the ground has moved as much as 10 feet in a day. The tunnel will go through the Spring Dell Lateral. The city gets an average of 2,000 acre feet of water a year from the springs, enough water to take care of 6,000 people. “The tunnel will be 13 feet in diameter with concrete on each side. The pipe is 10 feet in diameter.


The Olmsted Flowline is a vital link in delivering the Central Utah Water Conservancy District’s (District’s) municipal and industrial (M&I) water. In the last 20 years, three active landslides have interrupted the service of the Flowline and one of its branches, the Alpine Aqueduct (AA‐1). For each landslide crossing, the District has determined the causes, identified solutions, engineered remedies, and constructed replacement facilities to improve the reliability of these aqueducts. The causes of the three landslides were similar—weak geologic formations and groundwater—but their movement rates varied from under 3 mm (⅛ inch) per year to over 6.1 m (20 feet) per day. Accordingly, design approaches for circumventing or crossing the landslides varied with their movement rates. Constructed facilities included a tunnel (horizontal and vertical realignment in bedrock), two above‐ground pipes, surface and groundwater removal, slope buttressing, and soil nailing. This paper presents how the reliability and maintenance problems of multiple active and inactive landslides under two major aqueducts were addressed through the design and construction of various types of replacement conduits and slope stabilization facilities.