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Federal funding to help Utah water infrastructure repairs

One of two Arthur V. Watkins Dam siphon pipes that will be replaced with a direct outlet pipe in Willard Bay
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
One of two Arthur V. Watkins Dam siphon pipes that will be replaced with a direct outlet pipe is visible in Willard Bay’s low water levels in Box Elder County on Friday, May 20, 2022. The purpose of both the existing siphon pipes and future delivery conduit is to move fresh water from Willard Bay to the pictured canal that supplies several industrial customers.

In the face of unrelenting drought in Utah, communities are looking to repair and improve their water infrastructure. Recent federal funding is supporting these projects.

The US Department of the Interior recently announced $420 million in funding for rural water projects across the country, $240 million of which is being directed to aging infrastructure.

Utah is looking to spend the federal funding on repairing aging dams, aqueducts, water treatment plants and canals. Repairing these systems in Utah may help get more water to a shrinking Lake Powell and Nevada’s Lake Mead, helping Utah to meet water delivery obligations as agreed upon under the Colorado River Compact to other states downstream.

The more than $70 million allotted to Utah will help other aquatic systems as well, including the Great Salt Lake watershed. Great Salt Lake dipped to a new historic low last fall and is projected to drop up to two additional feet this year, due to drought and water diversions for agriculture and urban use.

Utah has plans for a siphon replacement at the Watkins earthen dam in Willard Bay, ensuring freshwater availability for industry, agriculture and critical Great Salt Lake wetland habitat, including the Harold Crane Waterfowl Management Area west of Ogden.

Other water infrastructure projects include the David Aqueduct, which delivers water to cities and farms along the northern Wasatch Front, as well as a new water intake structure at the Deer Creek Dam in Wasatch County, ensuring reliable water delivery to users of the Salt Lake Aqueduct.

Eastern Utah will see benefits from the federal funding as well, with a plan to convert Vernal’s 12-mile Steinaker Service Canal to pipeline. This conversion aims to conserve water, reduce maintenance costs and protect against risk of canal failure.

This story is made possible through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that partners news, education and media organizations to help inform people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake — and what can be done to make a difference before it is too late.

The full story by Amy Joi O’Donoghue can be viewed at

Aimee Van Tatenhove is a science reporter at UPR. She spends most of her time interviewing people doing interesting research in Utah and writing stories about wildlife, new technologies and local happenings. She is also a PhD student at Utah State University, studying white pelicans in the Great Salt Lake, so she thinks about birds a lot! She also loves fishing, skiing, baking, and gardening when she has a little free time.