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Provo River Project History (79 KB) (pdf)
General Description| Plan| Development| Benefits


General Description

The Provo River Project provides a supplemental water supply for the 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.

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The 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 Tunnel.

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 supplement 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.

Facility Descriptions

Deer Creek Dam

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 152,570 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, from which 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 Canal, and the Provo River.

Duchesne Diversion Dam 

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.

Weber-Provo Diversion Dam

The Weber-Provo Diversion Dam and Canal was originally part of the Weber River Project. The canal has 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. 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 1,228 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.

Deer Creek Powerplant

The powerplant was constructed on the substructure provided during the construction of Deer Creek Dam, has two 2,475-kilowatt generators, and was placed in operation 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.

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The first written report concerning this territory was made by John C. Fremont in the account of his expedition of 1843. General William H. Ashley led a party of fur traders into the West from St. Louis in the spring of 1822, and in 1825 established a trading post at Utah Lake known as Fort Ashley. The Provo River and the city of Provo are said to have been named after a trapper named Provost who was in the vicinity of Utah Lake as early as 1820. In March 1849, a group went southward from Salt Lake with the intention of establishing a colony on the Provo River. The settlement, started at a place called Old Fort Field, is now within the city limits of Provo. A fort was built and crops planted; over 200 acres were plowed the first year for wheat, rye, and corn. In August 1850, settlements were made at American Fork, Lehi, and Pleasant Grove. In 1856, Brigham Young outlined a plan for the use of Provo River water much the same as the plan used 80 years later by Reclamation.


Utah Lake supplied irrigation water for some areas in the Salt Lake Valley; however, during the drought years 1931-1935, 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 1930s 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. The Provo River Water User`s Association was organized to repay the government for the cost of the project in accordance with Reclamation law.


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 in 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.

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A supplemental water supply has been provided for 48,156 acres of highly developed farmlands, thus assuring maturity of valuable crops. Principal crops are alfalfa, grain, peaches, apples, pears, sugar beets, and canning crops, such as sweet corn, peas, and tomatoes.

Municipal and Industrial

Municipal and industrial water service is provided for the metropolitan water districts of Salt Lake City, Provo, Orem, Pleasant Grove, Lindon, American Fork, and Lehi. An average annual amount of 73,454 acre-feet is delivered to 479,221 persons.


Deer Creek Reservoir is on the Provo River about 16 miles northeast of Provo, Utah. Because a main highway crosses the dam, many visitors see the dam and reservoir during the year. The reservoir provides boating and excellent fishing in season, primarily for perch and native, rainbow, and brown trout. Four boat concessions, each with boats to rent to the public, are located on the shore and reservoir. Camping, swimming, boating, water skiing, and other forms of recreational use have increase dramatically. The Utah State Division of Parks and Recreation has administering responsibility. A new boat launching ramp, camp, and picnic facilities have been provided.

Flood Control

The Deer Creek Reservoir has 110,000 acre-feet of capacity assigned for flood control. The Provo River Project has provided an accumulated $22,000,000 in flood control benefits from 1950 to 1999.

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Last updated: May 11, 2011