MIDWAY, Utah — One of Utah's largest reservoirs is about to undergo major upgrades.
Deer Creek Reservoir, which supplies water to over 50% of the entire state's population, will undergo about $60 million in infrastructure improvements starting next year. The reservoir is a major source of water for northern Utah communities.
"Not necessarily what we store in here, but the amount of water that comes through here," said Dave Faux of the Provo River Water Users Association. "We have Jordanelle above us, all of their water has to come through here. And all of these surrounding mountain ranges, all drain into this reservoir and have to pass through this dam to get to the providers."
Some of the existing infrastructure is over 80 years old and the improvements will ensure it can last another 80 years at least. Some of the current parts for the intake and guard gates have reached the end of their life and are no longer available.
The dam itself remains structurally sound.
"With this infrastructure, this upgrade, we are looking to refurbish basically the plumbing of the Deer Creek Dam," said the association's Brad Jorgensen.
The project is designed to not only increase the reliability of water for the Wasatch Front, but for growth. Right now, 1.5 million people get water from the reservoir. That number is only expected to increase in the years to come.
New technologies will be added to also guard against an invasive species: Quagga mussels. The reservoir faced a scare when Quagga mussel DNA was detected in the water. No other signs of them were found and the water body has been declared clear since 2018.
But given how big Deer Creek is for recreation and water supply, the association said it wanted to ensure they can prevent an infestation.
"It would destroy the ecosystem and it would wreak havoc on the infrastructure. And so with the new project we’re doing, it’s going to have state-of-the-art infrastructure that will keep the Quagga mussel from binding to things," said Faux.
In a unique move, the project will be done without having to drain the reservoir. The Provo River Water Users Association is planning to carry it out both above and underwater, replacing the intake and guard gates without having to lower water levels.
"Recreation will still continue, but we’ll also have the ability to supply our users with water," Jorgensen said.
Utah's Division of Water Resources said it was a smart move.
"The innovative idea they had to do this without having to drain the reservoir," said assistant director Joel Williams. "Especially in a drought like this where we need all the storage we can get."
The project is not being done because of the drought, but to keep it up-to-date and prepare for growth and increased demand. Utah's water resources board approved contributing $40 million to the project out of a revolving loan fund.
As population grows, the Utah Division of Water Resources is also looking at other water bodies to keep them up to date, whether they can hold additional water or if there is a need for new reservoirs in the future.
"Water storage is huge for a climate like this where we get so much of our water during the snow melt-runoff period," Williams said. "And if we can store that and use it later, it makes a huge impact."