Sanitization and Modernization

(1959 - present)

Modernization of Providence’s water supply began in earnest in the 1960s. The irrigation companies undertook improvements to their canals, prompted by continuing water loss.[135]  Piping and waterproof lining projects were undertaken in cooperation with the Utah Water and Power Board and the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service.[136]  The installation of gates at canal points of connection were intended to assist with water measurement.[137]  At the same time, Providence City was eager to increase the culinary water supply of the city. To this end, the city leaders purchased land to build multiple reservoirs.[138]  They installed more water pumps and pipelines and dug wells.[139]  The need to increase the city water supply would only become more urgent over the decades, as the population has more than tripled since 1960.[140]

Millville Providence BSF Upper Canal on the corner of Main and 500 S.jpg

Photograph of a dry irrigation ditch along the side of a neighborhood road. This picture was taken on the corner of Main Street and 500 South.

Since 1959, the most important developments in water distribution in Providence and throughout Utah revolve around water sanitation. Although by the mid-20th century typhoid and cholera were becoming extremely rare in the United States (thanks to water treatment and better sewage systems), there still were and are waterborne diseases that remain a concern: Giardia, E.Coli, and Hepatitis A in particular.[141]  To combat such illnesses, the state and federal governments cooperated to create a Water Rating System in 1965. By complying with this system, small towns like Providence could ensure every household received clean culinary water. For a city’s water system to be “approved” by the state, there could be no "defects [in the means of conveyance] which might result in contamination of the water"; regularly-submitted samples of water had to meet certain requirements; and operation reports had to be sent to the Department of Health whenever treatment was added to the water.[142]  The Bureau of Public Water Supply insisted that water be treated more than once before being delivered to homes, and more than one method of treatment had to be applied. "[C]oagulation, settling, filtration and disinfection" were particularly mentioned.[143]  In 1966 Providence installed chlorinating equipment.[144]  Since 1965 other laws have been enacted and knowledge of waterborne diseases has increased, so the city must constantly keep abreast of such developments and make the necessary changes. In 1980 Providence’s water system achieved approval by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. The city must consistently send water quality reports to this department to maintain its approval.[145]

Providence BSF Lower Canal between 200 S and 300 S 2.jpg

This section of the Providence BSF Lower Canal runs between 200 South and 300 South on 200 West.

An effective sewer system has a great effect on the ability to keep culinary water pure. Providence elected to connect to Logan’s existing sewer system in the latter half of the 20th century.[146]  Up to that point, cesspools, septic systems and even some outhouses were the norm.[147]  As knowledge of water sanitation has increased, so has the recognition of the need to keep irrigation water, sewer water and culinary water separate.[148]  Even irrigation water needs to be of a certain quality to avoid contaminating crops—untreated sewer water should not be used. Of course, culinary water has to meet even higher standards. Thus, "cross-connections” (places where a non-potable source of water, such as irrigation ditches, comes into contact with other water systems)must be avoided.[149]


As of now, three of Providence City’s water sources come from wells dug during the modernization process; however, the main year-round source comes from a spring.[150]  Almost all of the irrigation companies founded in the early 19th century remain active and there is continuing need for the water companies and the city to cooperate in maintaining Providence’s water supply.[151]  They must work together to ensure water quality.[152]  Conflicts over shared sources must be resolved quickly and courteously.[153] Shares must be regularly exchanged and purchased.[154]

Providence’s canals remain crucial to sustaining the town. Though in some areas the irrigation ditches are hardly noticeable along the roadside, in others their shadows remain. Knowledge of Providence’s water and canal system is crucial to understanding how the town became what it is today, and how settlers have managed to survive in the arid western United States. Furthermore, the history of Providence’s water and canals has not come to an end. There will always be more developments and improvements to come.[155]

Screenshot below courtesy of the Cache County website and Utah Division of Water Rights. This overhead view, highlighting canal locations with blue lines, also shows the modern service areas of the three major irrigation companies. The blue in the upper left-hand side is the Providence Pioneer Irrigation Company, the yellow belongs to the Providence Blacksmith Fork Irrigation Company, and the red indicates the territory of the Spring Creek Water Company.1

14 Screenshot 2021-01-01 030012 canal map.jpg
[135] Baker, Waters, 68.
[136] Baker, Waters, 68, 127, 129.
[137] Baker, Waters, 69.
[138] Baker, Waters, 73, 132; “The Waters of Providence City,” Water Townhall Power Point Presentation, slide 5, https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwjnwMDQ6O7xAhXJsZ4KHUszBm4QFjAKegQIBxAD&url=http%3A%2F%2Fprovidencecity.com%2Fwp-content%2Figov_files%2Fwatertownhall_power_point.pdf&usg=AOvVaw319576flY1S_nZNf7cpthX.
[139] Baker, Waters, 73, 81, 82.
[140] Baker, Waters, 112; "Providence City, Utah," Quick Facts, United States Census Bureau, accessed 7 September, 2021, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/providencecityutah/IPE120219; "General Information," Cholera - Vibrio cholerae infection, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed 7 September 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/cholera/general/index.html.
[141] Gunther F. Craun and Rebecca L. Calderon, “Waterborne Disease Outbreaks Caused by Distribution System Deficiencies,” Journal (American Water Works Association) Vol. 93, No. 9 (September 2001), 73; S. J. Olsen, S. C. Bleasdale, A. R. Magnano, C. Landrigan, B. H. Holland, R. V. Tauxe, E. D. Mintz, and S. Luby, “Outbreaks of typhoid fever in the United States, 1960–99,” Epidemiol. Infect. (2003), 130, 13.
[142] Water in the West, Book 93 (BOOK COLL 38), Utah State University, Special Collections and Archives Department, 7.
[143] Water in the West, 9, 14.
[144] Baker, Waters, 79.  [145] "Public Water System Water Monitoring Report," Water System Reports, Utah Department of Environmental Quality, accessed 7 September 2021, https://waterlink.utah.gov/deqWater/reports.html?systemId=1212.
[146] F. Ross Peterson, A History of Cache County (Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, Cache County Council, 1997), 319.
[147] Peterson, 317.
[148] "RCA Issue Brief #9 March 1996," Water Quality, United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service Utah, accessed 7 September 2021, https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/ut/home/?cid=nrcs143_014216.
[149] "Agricultural Water," Other Uses of Water, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed 7 September 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/other/agricultural/index.html; Marina Steele and Joseph Odumeru, “Irrigation Water as Source of Foodborne Pathogens on Fruit and Vegetables,” Journal of Food Protection Vol. 67, No. 12 (2004), 2841; Water in the West 9, 14; Judy Jensen, “New Water Regulations will Soak Homeowners,” Davis County Clipper, December 18, 1990, p. 1, https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6qg1mvw/22555720.
[150] 2017 Water Quality Report 2; “The Waters of Providence City,” slide 4.
[151] “The Waters of Providence City,” slide 13.
[152] https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/ut/home/?cid=nrcs143_014216.
[153] Spring Creek Water Company Minutes, 91 (106), 147a (201), 23 (28).
[154] Spring Creek Water Company Minutes, 156 (210), 166 (221), last page (230); “The Waters of Providence City,” slides 9-10; Baker, Waters, 135.
[155] “The Waters of Providence City,” slide 13.
[156] "History of a Valley (Major Canals Map)," Cache Valley Canals and Service Areas, Cache County, accessed 7 September 2021, https://cacheut.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=fcde52cfc3a948d5ae167a812448a042.