Improved Water System at Salt Lake City

Improved Water System at Salt Lake City


The citizens of Salt Lake City, Utah, do not intend to again suffer the inconvenience of a water famine as they did a couple of years ago, when, for three days, the supply mains were frozen up, depriving them of something as important as the air they breathe and the sunshine they bask in. Perhaps though, it was providential that they should be so hampered, as it goaded them to take steps which will render even a worse calamity impossible in the future. In short, out of the agitation caused by those three days’ water shortage came concrete plans for making a water system adequate to meet the future destiny of the city and impervious to the frost and drought alike. The passage of a year has seen these plans take form. Some of them are already under way and the others are part of a practical campaign that is to be carried out during the next several years. No more will there be a water famine, say the water officials. Already sufficient steps have been taken to provide an ample supply in case of a similar emergency. The principal achievement during the year toward solving the problem was the letting of the contract for the construction of the dams on the Big Cottonwood lakes. Here the city will store hundreds of millions of gallons at its very source in the tops of the mountains. Work on the dam across the outlet of Lake Phoebe progressed rapidly during the later summer and fall months. It will be completed, in all probability, during the ensuing summer. The Owen Gray Company was given the contract at a bid of about $60,000. This dam will hold in reserve the flood waters of the spring so as to feed the stream through the summer months in such way as to keep the flow as near normal as possible. Complementary to this project is the proposed distribution and storage reservoir which the city aims to build on the Fort Douglas military reservation, just east of Fifteenth East street, near Fifth South street. This reservoir, if built, will hold in reserve many millions of gallons for the serving of the supply lines in the southeastern part of the city. Parley’s conduit will empty into this reservoir. The same general plan includes a new supply line down Thirteenth South street from the Big Cottonwood conduit to feed all the city from that point north to the upper system.


It is to the flow from Big Cottonwood canyon that the city is looking chiefly for meeting the future needs. The city owns some rights in the water, but most of the water it takes from that stream is taken under the exchange agreement with the farmers who own most of it. The city pumps water from the Jordan river and the Utah lake and carries it to the farmers in the city canal. Having supplied them with irrigation water, the city takes the mountain water for its supply mains. It is the aim of the city to extend this exchange, basis as rapidly as is consistent and eventually to obtain most of the water from Big Cottonwood in return for the lake water. Sylvester Q. Cannon, city engineer, has pointed out that through this exchange method Salt Lake could come into possession of a water supply sufficient for a city of more than half a million population. He showed by charts and figures just what the flow is from all the mountain streams.

Wells were dug, too, in Emigration canyon, and another 500,000 gallon daily flow was added. In fact, it is believed that with proper research work to determine the location and amount of subterranean water at hand, many millions can be obtained in this method. During the year the city obtained rights to certain spring water near Big Cottonwood canyon, by which it has obtained 3,000,000 gallons additional flow. To tie sure, the springs rise below the intake of the Cottonwood conduit, but this discrepancy in gravity was overcome by selling the spring water to farmers below the point of origin, and then taking that much additional out of the upper Cottonwood canal, at a point above the conduit. A pipe line will be built from the canal to the conduit. Eventually the city hopes to assume a sort of protectorate, or an assertion of the Monroe doctrine, over the waters of Big Cottonwood. Years will be required to carry out all the plans that center around the Cottonwood project, but the most cheerful thing about it all is that the water is there in sufficient quantities to supply a city several times the size of Salt Lake, if means of compensating and caring for the farmers are provided. City creek, the city’s dearest water treasure, has received considerable attention from the water department this year. This stream, running from its virgin hills into the city mains, has been made to increase its flow commensurate with the added demands put upon it. Its tributary springs and rivulets have been cleaned, its channels deepened and new sources of supply have been added to the main stream. In casting about for possible sites for storage reservoirs, City creek has not been overlooked. Superintendent C. F. Barrett of the water department believes a reservoir could be constructed above the high line intake that would offer absolutely no danger to the city. He would take advantage of a natural reservoir site in the canyon, which could be utilized by building a dam across a narrow point in the canyon. The force of the impounded water, it is said, could be thrown against the mountainside itself, thus reducing any danger that might exist of the dam breaking and rushing a wall of water through the business district.

Conservation of the present supply has been no less a consideration during the past year. In fact, it is equally vital in the water problem with the question of increase, say the water officials.

“Of what avail are a million extra gallons or ten million extra gallons if they are poured into a sieve?” they ask. To the mind of almost any water superintendent, intent day in and day out on keeping up the pressure in your nice, white bathroom, every unmetered tap is a sieve and a source of useless waste. Why coax the mountain waters into the mains only to let most of it run uselessly to waste? Why seek high and low for additional supply when we do not use the present supply with proper regard for common economy? Superintendent C. F. Barrett is no exception. He believes in meters. He can muster a thousand arguments to support his belief, and by way of being sincere, he will take you out to his own premises with a well-kept lawn, and show you a meter of his own. He chooses to have it, and he believes every other citizen should so choose. He has recommended meters time and again to the city commission, and has carried out his ideas as to meters so effectively that his books show that in the last six months the number of meters in use in the city has increased from 783 to 1,159, whereas the usual increase for one year is about 100.

Meter rates are such that they actually effect a saving for the consumer. This is proven on the books of the water department. Also, according to Mr. Barrett, the use of water under a meter does not have to be restricted in the case of any reasonable human being. It is only the “water-hog” that would suffer under the meter system, he declares, and it is because of them that the city has to place restrictions on sprinkling during the late summer months. During last summer it was necessary to restrict consumers on account of a shortage in August and September, yet the records of the water department show that the average per capita consump tioti of water, including each man, woman and child in the city during the period of shortage, was 256 gallons daily. The record also shows that the average daily per capita consumption during the first eleven months of 1913 was 210 gallons daily. Mr. Barrett quotes these figures as sheer absurdities, as compared to the per capita consumption in any other city in America. No other city has as large a consumption, and the vast majority of cities use about half as much, or less, per capita. But even at that, Mr. Barrett does not begrudge the consumer all the water he can possibly use so long as willful and careless waste is eliminated. The meters would do this, he believes. Sylvester Q. Cannon. city engineer, who has made an exhaustive study of the city’s water system and supply, both as city engineer and as water engineer, also believes in meters, though for the present he is in doubt whether the city should expend its available money in metering the city or in acquiring additional supply. To place the city on a meter basis all at once would require several hundred thousand dollars for the purchase of meters alone.

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