St. George, Utah


The City Charter of St. George placed the control and distribution of water in the hands of the city council. But in practice, it became the responsibility of the LDS bishops to allocate water to the city lots.

Lots south of Diagonal Street and 100 North were watered from the West and East City Springs, while other lots in the original survey were watered by springs seeping from the red ledges along the north edge of town.

Upon completion of the ditch system through the city, a "Drinking Hour" was established in which all irrigation diversions were taken out of the main ditch so that water would flow completely through the valley. During the specified hour (5 to 6 a.m. in summer and 6 to 7 a.m. in winter) members of each household dipped enough water from the ditch for their daily drinking and culinary needs. They placed this water in storage barrels from which they dipped during the day. Most families kept the drinking barrel(s) on the north side of the house where it would stay more cool. Often the barrel was wrapped in burlap or with an old quilt, and the wrapping was soaked to help keep the water temperature down. If someone dipped a drink and didn't finish it, the remaining water was poured onto the packing. Drinking barrels were cleaned often to stop the growth of moss inside and prevent them from becoming a breeding place for mosquitoes.

Irrigation water turns were timed to the minute in early St. George. The schedule ran 24 hours a day and the meager supply, coupled with discrepancies in time pieces, caused constant disputes between neighbors. The problem was partially alleviated with the installation of a town clock in the Tabernacle tower in 1872.

In January of 1863, Mayor Angus M. Cannon let bids to sink an artesian well on the public square. Archibald Sullivan won the contract and the well was driven to quite a depth, but no water was secured.

Cottonwood Spring and Cottonwood Creek... [TBD]

During the summer of 1907, a bond election was held in the city on whether or not to incur bonded indebtedness in the amount of $10,500 to establish a water pipe system for the city. The election drew 94 voters, 89 of whom voted for the proposition, with just five opposing it. As a result, by 1909 the City of St. George had a head house at the upper end of Main Street and a wood-pipe system carrying water to many parts of town. A settling pond was constructed near the head house to allow silt to settle before water was conducted through the system.

There was a need for storing larger amounts of Cottonwood water so that it would be consistently available regardless of weather or condition of the canal. In a city council meeting during February of 1911, it was resolved that the city should take immediate steps to file on a reservoir site and secure it to commence construction at the earliest possible date. The site would be near Black Knolls, a few miles north of the head house on the Red Hill, and the estimated cost of building the dam came in at $15,000. The project began sometime thereafter and continued for more than 20 years. But the dam, built with giant lava boulders, much work, and good intentions, would not hold water and the reservoir never served its intended purpose.

By 1912, most all of St. George's homes were served with piped water. During that year water meters began to be installed with the initial rate of 15 cents per 1,000 gallons. A "water rate collector" was assigned to read meters and collect fees at the end of each quarter. All of this brought an end to the need for a "Drinking Hour" in Utah's Dixie, and the ordinance requiring all diversions to be removed from ditches for one hour each morning was officially repealed on September 21, 1912. As far as water was concerned, this marked the end of the pioneer era in St. George.

In October of 1920, the city council passed a resolution to hold a special bond election on whether or not the citizens would be willing to incur a bonded indebtedness of $72,000 to "extend and improve the present waterworks system and secure an additional water supply for the city." In spite of what was at the time an incredibly large amount of money, the next month citizens voted in favor of the proposal by a margin of 115 to 29. $45,000 in bonds was issued in 1921 and construction commenced on four miles of eight inch cement pipeline beginning at the head house at the north end of St. George and extending north to the reservoir site at Black Knolls. Late in the 1920's the city began to replace its wood pipe system with a cast-iron system for distributing water from the head house to the various parts of the city. The project extended over seven or eight years and was financed with waterworks revenues. Pipe for the project originally came from plants as far away as Birmingham, Alabama. But with the advent of the Pacific States Cast Iron Pipe Company in Provo, Utah, St. George was able to obtain iron pipe at much reduced prices.

In 1930, J. S. Backtel petitioned the city for the rights to drill wells in the St. George Valley. His intent was to discover a new water source beneath the city and share in any profits derived from the venture. The city council gave him the go-ahead, but after months of drilling and digging he gave up.

During the 1930s, the Cottonwood Canal was replaced with the Cottonwood Pipeline. This was made possible by the Public Works Administration (PWA). It substantially increased the reliability of the water delivery and also improved the quality of the the water by eliminating contaminants.

A utility commission took over the culinary water system in 1944.

In 1945, a major move was made to purchase rights to water at Blake and Gubler Ranch, a few miles to the west of the original Pine Valley Springs. Late in 1945, a contract was let to build a pipeline from springs at Blake and Gubler, along the base of the mountain, to connect with the Cottonwood pipeline. This added significant volume to the city's water system.

In 1948, the city built a 1 million gallon water storage tank on the Red Hill at the head of Fifth East. The tank not only became a major component in the municipal water system, but also added to the community's social scene. The tank was constructed with a railing around the top and its wide, flat concrete roof became a popular outdoor dance floor.

Mill Creek in the 1950s... [TBD]

A 2 million gallon water storage tank was built on the Red Hill at the north end of Main Street.

Gunlock Reservoir and drainage... [TBD]

A 1.7 million gallon storage tank (the green tank) was built on the north point of the black ridge at Bluff and Sunset Boulevard. It is used to store water from the Gunlock drainage.

City Creek... [TBD]

Around 1974, a 2 million gallon storage tank, which the City Creek wells feed, was built in the industrial park north east of the city.

Snow Canyon water... [TBD]

Quail Creek water proect... [TBD]

In the late 1980s, a 2.5 million gallon storage tank was built at Bloomington Hills to complement an existing 1.3 million gallon tank. These, combined with a 1 million gallon tank at Bloomington Country Club, as well as the other existing tanks, put the city's culinary water storage capacity at 26 million gallons.


Cottonwood Canal
Cottonwood Pipeline
Cottonwood Spring
East Spring
Gunlock Reservoir
Quail Creek Reservoir
Sand Hollow Reservoir
St. George Water & Power Board
Washington County Water Conservancy District
West Spring


The story of St. George water

A Brief Review of the Cottonwood Water History and the Present Situation
by Brigham Jarvis, Sr.

The Cottonwood Water Story   (Brigham Jarvis and the Cottonwood Canal)
by Mabel Jarvis, Daughter of Brigham Jarvis

Quotations about Brigham Jarvis   (Brigham Jarvis Ideas and Innovations)
from "I Was Called to Dixie" by Andrew Karl Larson

A Visit with George E. Miles   (George Jarvis, the Temple Tower and Water)
A record of a visit by Zora Smith Jarvis with her uncle, George E. Miles, on October 20, 1966

Quotations Concerning Brigham Jarvis
Mayor Albert E. Miller Remembers Brigham Jarvis, Cottonwood Canal in Pipes
from "Immortal Pioneers" by Albert E. Miller