Central Utah Water Tour – Spring Exchange

With the help of Pat Shea and the Central Utah Water Conservancy District (CUWCD), USPCAS-W at the U was able to put together a three day tour of the Central Utah Project showcasing dams, treatment plants, and hydro power plants in central Utah. For many of the spring exchange participants, this was the first time they had visited the facilities they have been studying. It was an opportunity to see how water in a dry state is stored and moved, as well as talking directly with the people running it.

Central Utah Water is responsible for delivering clean, usable water to customers through management of a network of reservoirs, treatment plants, tunnels, pipelines, and streams. They monitor and track precipitation levels and make decisions on how to serve current customers, storing water for the future, as well as working with larger users on using water more efficiently and conducting public outreach activities promoting outreach activities.

The students left the University of Utah on Sunday, April 23rd at noon. On the way to Duchesne, the students had an opportunity to see the Jordanelle Reservoir and then stop for a brief discussion at Strawberry Reservoir where the tunnel system brings water down from the Upper Stillwater Reservoir and Currant Creek Reservoir. The students also had an opportunity to speak with local fishermen about the recreation use on the local reservoirs. The students were taken up to Starvation Reservoir for a look at another recreation area before driving out to see some of the local oil fields and talking more about the geology of the area and the effects of that on ground water. After that, the group had dinner in Duchesne before settling in before the first big tour day. 

 

On Monday, they met with members of the CUWCD at their office in Duchesne and received an overview of the system and some basic safety instructions. From there everyone drove out to Starvation Dam, a zoned earthfill dam. They looked at the spillway and safety measures on the dam before moving on to visit the pumping station and storage tanks for the water treatment plant. The students were interested to learn that the water not only is used for the city, but also a lot of the water goes to oil production.

 

After the plant tour and discussions, the group travelled out to the Upper Stillwater Dam, which when built was one of the largest roller-compacted concrete dams in the world. The students were also treated to snow during this tour as they learned about the face of the dam and connecting tunnels leading to
Strawberry Reservoir. From there, they had a chance to walk inside the dam and learn about cracking, repairs, and the how the tracking is done for dam safety before jumping back in the vans to travel up to the top of the dam for a view across the reservoir and down the canyon.

 

The final stop on Monday was the Big Sand Wash Dam & Reservoir outside of Roosevelt. This was just a quick discussion of a smaller reservoir before dinner and an end of the first night.  

 

On Tuesday morning the group met again at the Duchesne offices for a quick briefing before heading out for Strawberry Reservoir and Soldier Creek Dam. The students started again at the top of Soldier Creek Dam with a discussion of spillways and gates, along with dam safety and procedures. The group then traveled down to visit a tunnel that was added for safety after a failure of a similar dam in Idaho, which gave another glimpse of safety measures in the U.S. and how dams are tracked over time to ensure they are operating correctly.

 

From here the group traveled back to Jordanelle reservoir and started with a tour of the hydro-power plant at the reservoir. The students were able to tour the active system, seeing turbines and control systems and talking with operators about the capacity for electricity generation. The students had a lot of questions about why a dam wouldn’t be generating maximum electricity, as that is the norm in Pakistan where as in Utah the dams are generally focused on water storage.

After the tour of the hydro-plant, the group traveled up the back of the dam to look across the reservoir and talk again about the construction and operation of Jordanelle versus the other reservoirs they had visited. The students were also give the opportunity to ride the over 200 foot elevator to the bottom of the dam and see the gates and inner workings.

 

The group continued to follow the water down from Jordanelle reservoir, past Deer Creek reservoir to visit the Olmsted Power Plant. The old Olmsted Power Plant was built in 1904 and ran until 2015. They are currently in the process of converting the old plant into a museum and building a new power plant. The students were able to look at old school turbines and systems and learn about the history of the area.

 

Finally, the group visited some of the new well pumping stations on the water system and the control system at the end. This was a final chance to ask questions and thank the wonderful CUWCD people for an amazing tour before heading back to the University of Utah.

 

Overall, the students had a great time. They were thrilled to see more of Utah and commented extensively on the beauty. They also enjoyed networking and learning from the fantastic staff of CUWCD, who were happy to answer questions both about the water systems but also just discussing cultural differences. We can’t thank CUWCD enough for their help putting this together and look forward to putting together similar trips for future groups of students.