History of Irrigation Systems in St. George

“Life in the desert” is almost oxymoronic because water is necessary for life, yet deserts have very little of it.  States and cities in the dry Southwestern United States have thrived, somehow beating the odds for almost two centuries.  Even before the European Americans invaded and populated the desert regions, Native Americans found enough water to sustain families and tribes.  The growth of metropolitan areas in Arizona, Nevada and Southern Utah is quite miraculous and has required massive, billion-dollar projects to retrieve and store enough life-giving H2O.  This article presents the fascinating story of irrigation systems in Saint George, Utah, which is now considered the fastest-growing metro area of the USA.

Beginning With the 1870’s

Back in the 1860s, Mormon Pioneers were settling and developing life in the St. George area.  The first sources of water for irrigation systems were springs from some of the red hills surrounding the St. George region.  The springs were diverted to ditches to supply water to the town proper. One hour per day was relegated as the “Drinking Hour” (water, not alcohol, of course) when residents could fill a barrel to use for a 24-hour period.  They kept the barrel on the north side of the house to keep cooler.

Later, Bishops of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints monitored use of the irrigation ditches, and residents took turns taking water for their gardens, farms, and homes.  The problem was that timepieces were inconsistent and varied among the citizens, so there was plenty of angst and disputations between neighbors. To solve the arguments over the timing of water shares, the Church built a large clock in the Tabernacle tower, and that became the standard for all to follow.

It wasn’t until 1912 that pipes were used to transport water to homes and farms.  This marked the end of the Pioneer era, with regard to water irrigation systems.  Water was metered at each house and paid for quarterly at 15 cents per 1000 gallons.

Utility Commision in 1944

Fast forward to 1944, a utility commission took over the culinary water system in Saint George.  In 1945 a pipeline was laid at the Blake and Gubler ranch near Pine Valley Mountain, bringing a greater volume of water to the city’s irrigation systems.  Pine Valley Mountains possessed some watershed from snow and streams to carry precious H2O to St. George.

Late 20th Century Reservoirs

Since the mid-20th Century, water storage tanks were built to hold one to two million gallons.  The storage tanks and water drained from Gunlock reservoir supplied water to this high desert until late 20th Century, when two large reservoirs were built:  Sand Hollow and Quail Creek. These two reservoirs were filled with pipelines from the Virgin River, which is the reason Saint George has been able to flourish to over 100,000 people by 21st Century.  These high-tech irrigation systems include a water treatment plant adjacent to Quail Creek dam.  Water trickles from the bottom of Sand Hollow Reservoir to replenish the Navajo Sandstone Aquifer, a huge, underground maze of lakes, streams, and ponds.

Now in the 21st Century, the residents of Saint George, Utah are thriving with enough water for cooking, cleaning, bathing, and growing crops.  It is still metered, and, you can bet, is more expensive than the old 15 cents per 1000 gallons.

Modern-day irrigation systems consist of various types of high-tech pipes, sprinklers, and electronic controls, which you can set to your liking to keep a beautiful landscape around your corner of St. George heaven.


History of Irrigation Systems in St. George

History of Irrigation Systems in St. George

Article By: Clear Content Marketing