Irrigation Systems

Upper Canal - brief blurb

Big Cottonwood Tanner Ditch 

The purpose of this response is to describe the City of Holladay’s history and role in maintaining and operating the Big Cottonwood Tanner Ditch. As the Salt Lake Metropolitan Area’s population continues to grow, Salt Lake City Public Utilities has had to continue to secure more and more water rights for culinary use. The clear water in Big Cottonwood Creek is a desirable water source. To secure more rights for this water, Salt Lake City Corporation negotiated an Exchange Agreement with the Big Cottonwood Tanner Ditch Company.

On April 18, 2008, the shareholders of the Big Cottonwood Tanner Ditch agreed to exchange their shares in the ditch company with Salt Lake City Corporation for culinary water. The City of Holladay was not a part of the Exchange Agreement. Relevant terms of the exchange are as follows:

  • Those with irrigation shares received free vouchers for culinary water supplied by Salt Lake City for the purpose of irrigating.
  • “After the Irrigation Water Termination Date, [Salt Lake] City shall have no obligation to deliver, or make available, Irrigation Water to the Company or any Shareholders.”
  • “[Salt Lake] City may agree to lease Irrigation Water to the Company [Big Cottonwood Tanner Ditch]…. Such price shall include, at a minimum, (i) the cost to the City of making the water available, and (ii) the commodity value of the water so provided. Leasing water… shall be wholly voluntary on the part of the [Salt Lake] City and in any event only be considered by the City as long as an Irrigation Water canal delivery system is in place and operational, allowing the conveyance of Irrigation Water from Utah Lake.”
  • “[Salt Lake] City may make Irrigation Water available to the Company at the headgates… that such Irrigation Water shall be made available (i) in the sole and absolute discretion of the [Salt Lake] City, (ii) only during the spring run-off…. If the City makes such spring run-off waters available, it shall do so as a courtesy and without charge.
  • Salt Lake City dedicated $6.9M for capital improvements to the culinary system to be able to meet their culinary water commitments to the shareholders.

On October 15, 2012, a Purchase Agreement was executed between the City of Holladay and the Big Cottonwood Tanner Ditch and the Little Cottonwood Tanner Ditch. Relevant terms of this Purchase Agreement are as follows:

  1. The ditch system west of the East Jordan Canal Extension, which runs near Shangri Lane, was transferred to the Little Cottonwood Tanner Ditch Company.
  2. The ditch system east of the East Jordan Canal Extension was transferred to the City of Holladay.

Today, the Little Cottonwood Tanner Ditch continues to run irrigation water in the West Irrigation System. Their water is supplied from the East Jordan Canal Extension.

With regards to requests to turn irrigation water into the ditch during “Spring run-off”, this was done shortly after taking ownership of the ditch. Unfortunately, it resulted in flooded basements, causing significant claim expenses paid by the City of Holladay. Five years ago, after the second attempt that resulted in flooding basements, the city council decided not to allow use of the ditch of irrigation water going forward.

Furthermore, it is our understanding the trees are not stressed from lack of water during spring run-off, but rather during the heat of the summer months in late July and August when Big Cottonwood Creek is dry or running very low at the Tanner Ditch headgate (when the creek bed is dry, all the water is diverted by Salt Lake City for culinary use). Residents requesting irrigation water during this time would need to negotiate a lease agreement with Salt Lake City to purchase irrigation water at market rate. 

The City of Holladay regrets any loss of the tree canopy in Holladay. The 2008 agreement to exchange water rights to Salt Lake City did not include Holladay and we do not have a remedy that protects property owners along the portions of Tanner Ditch now owned by our city.

From time to time, property owners seek permission from the city to fill in the ditch on their property. To date, the city has not provided permission to any of these property owners as the ditch may receive stormwater runoff from some private properties and blocking the ditch has the potential to back it up.

Irrigation Laterals

There are three (3) canals and two creeks that supply irrigation water to 9 private irrigation companies that actively operate in Holladay. The water is typically supplied to shareholders via smaller ditches and pipes called “laterals”. These laterals are privately owned by the irrigation company or by the property where the ditch crosses. As such, the city does not maintain these laterals or regulate them. The city will take responsibility for the maintenance of the lateral where it may cross the city’s right of way (our roads). The city is not responsible for regulating stormwater runoff that enters into a lateral from a private property. There are some locations where stormwater runoff enters a lateral from a public road. The city is identifying locations where stormwater from our roadways enter the laterals. Projects are being planned to eliminate this practice.