Snow Canyon Project and the 1977 Drought

by CHELLE D. BRIDGE

The people who resided in the desert state known as Utah had an arid hit in the year of 1977. The Color Country Spectrum reported on February 27, 1977, that Gov. Scott Matteson had encouraged residents to prepare for the drought and urged the state to act as a team. Matheson asked Utah cities to help find a solution for the water shortage, particularly during the dry summer months.

Although the entire state experienced a water shortage that year, southern Utah — and the city of St. George — was particularly affected by the drought.

The city’s residents had saved water because of the shortage. The Water and Power Board enacted strict rules regarding water usage. Even so, the dryness still came.

St. George’s main water source was from natural springs and wells, but with the dry weather, the sunny city worried whether there would be enough water to last through summer. People feared that irrigation and agriculture would be hit the hardest. The Color Country Spectrum reported on February 24 that with the growth of the city and community it gave a great reason to also have the water usage shortened. The water development was worked on and was combined with the sewer project.

Fred Rendell, author of Making the Desert Bloom, wrote that “The Water and Power board were on a constant alert which made them ration the water.” (Rendell, 225) With the water disappearing, it had left residents with fear of water depletion. The almost waterless city had to find a solution to the shortage.

In fact, because of the dry weather, many residents had lost their jobs. But, the drought gave residents a new task. The Color Country Spectrum reported on March 4 that locals were asked to help in any way that they could. Ideas included limiting water usage, restricting the use of sprinklers, using water only for essential needs, and finding better sources of water. The residents would determine how much water they would have been able to use. This had made the residents look harder for water sources. The best idea was to go to local ponds, reservoirs, and lakes.

According to a story published in the Color Country Spectrum on February 24, ”The first place to drill for water was from a golf course in the sunny city. This would give hope to the residents and would save them about 88 million gallons of water a year.”

The paper reported on February 20  that “the main source was found by using pipes, from a natural spring.”

The project had begun by using aquifers. Rendell wrote in his book, “In the canyon water had been discovered. The Water, Power Company had put aquifers in the Navaho and Kayenta rock formations.” (Rendell, 445) This was an anticipated answer to come for the drought problems. Rendell also wrote that a University of Utah professor, Harry Goode, “was assured by the geology that the water could be found.” An employee with the U.S. Geological Survey also was optimistic that water would be located “beneath the floor of the canyon.”

Drilling ensued and five wells ultimately were constructed to feed “two giant underground storage tanks.” The Color Country Spectrum reported on March 4 that putting the tank in Snow Canyon Park created a water supply for residents of St. George.

Conclusion

Constant reminders to save and use water wisely were difficult for residents of St. George. However, the city pulled through, in part due to hard work and a team effort. This feeling of coming together helped to create an atmosphere of achievement and a sense that their city in southern Utah would remain.

Chelle Bridge is a senior at the University of Utah majoring in mass communication

 Sources

“Snow Canyon Arch … was source of life for Ivins,” St. George, Utah, Color Country Spectrum, February 20, 1977, 1.

“Drought program to aid West, Midwest,” Color Country Spectrum, February 23, 1977, 1.

“Washington copes with growing pains,” Color Country Spectrum, February 24, 1977, 1.

“Utah Faces Worst Drought,” Color Country Spectrum, February 27, 1977, 2.

“Southern Utah Prepares for water shortage,” Color Country Spectrum, February 27, 1977, 1.

“Weather Prompts Scare,” Color Country Spectrum, March 4, 1977, 1.

“Water Supply Deteriorates,” Color Country Spectrum, March 8, 1977, 3.

Bill Cooper,“Drought Affects Wildlife,” Color Country Spectrum, April 3, 1977, 2.

“Changing Water Rate System Encouraged,” Color Country Spectrum, April 10, 1977, 1.

About Snow Canyon State Park,” Utah State Parks and Recreation.

Rendell, Fred. “Drought Turns Eyes Toward Snow Canyon,” in Making the Desert Bloom, republished by the City of St. George.

 

 

 

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