Engineers to overhaul irrigation system in Zion National Park

Posted at 9:40 PM, Oct 22, 2013

ZION NATIONAL PARK – A construction project at Zion National Park aims to make better use of one of the canyon’s most important resources, the river that made it.

The Virgin River running through the park is more than just an attraction -- it’s also the life-blood of the park. In the interest of water conservation park engineers are planning an overhaul of the irrigation system.

“We are putting in a new irrigation system, essentially,” said park spokeswoman Aly Baltrus. “We’re going to be separating our water from Springdale and it will all be underneath the ground.”

Currently open ditches transfer irrigation water. The five-month project will replace those open ditches with pressurized underground pipes, modernizing the system that has been in place for decades.

Also under the current system large grass areas in front of the museum and by the Zion lodge are watered using culinary water. The goal would be to create a separate irrigation system for areas like this and better use those water resources.

“We’d like to keep as much water in the river as we can,” Baltrus said. “And then whatever we pull out of the river, utilize that to the best of our ability.”

The project will cost close to $800,000. It’s money that comes out of what’s called “floria fees,” commonly known as the money visitors pay when they enter the park.

“About 80 percent of them stay within the park,” Baltrus said. “They either go to pay for staff, up to half of that can pay for staff, the rest of it goes for projects that benefit the visitors.”

Construction on the irrigation system will begin Oct. 28. It will close a section of one of the park’s main trails, the Par’us Trail. Baltrus said the major attractions and viewpoints will still be accessible.

Completion is expected in April 2014.