MILLCREEK — It is a balancing act to replace the old with the new, keep the water flowing, and ensure that it is up to quality and nothing goes awry in this six-year, $42 million project.
With heavy equipment machinery humming at all corners of this building site, construction and replacement of holding reservoirs for an eventual 49 million gallons of drinking water is midway to being finished, part of a complex system serving nearly a half-million people.
The Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake and Sandy takes this water from the base of Deer Creek Reservoir, funneling it more than 40 miles through an aqueduct to a storage facility at 3300 East, visible from I-215 as it approaches Parleys Canyon.
"This is a key structure for the Salt Lake water system," said district general manager Mike Wilson.
The two original terminal reservoirs were installed in 1951 with a capacity of 40 million gallons and experienced some settling in the 1980s.
A key component of the multifaceted project is to boost storage capacity — adding room for 9 million more gallons of water — with room to install another reservoir for an additional 11 million gallons of water.
Wilson said the project will ensure the viability of the water supply and delivery system through the year 2100 and allow greater efficiency of treating the water, such as removing harmful chlorination should it need to be released into Parleys Creek during overflow years.
Unlike some water districts that are looking at development projects to significantly boost supplies going into the future, Wilson said, the Metropolitan District is in a "repair and replace" mode.
"The age of our infrastructure is the biggest problem in our district," a wholesale supplier to Salt Lake City and Sandy, which in turn sell to other cities, Wilson said.
A Thursday tour of the construction project — which began in November 2011 — was part of the inaugural week of a Salt Lake Chamber campaign called "Water Is Your Business." The organization is trying to raise the awareness around the need for water conservation strategies in business, the challenges of infrastructure costs and how those factor with population growth.
"It is all part of this three-legged stool, and no one is quite sure what all of these may look like taken together," said Michael Merrill, policy director of the Salt Lake Chamber.
Justin Jones, a spokesman with the chamber, said the chamber began discussion of embarking on such a campaign about a year ago after being approached by several businesses that wanted to elevate the awareness around wise use of water in industry and commerce.
"The idea is that water is a resource that should be managed very carefully, like a asset," Jones said. "Today, we are benefiting from wise water managers of the past, and we know that because we have enough today. But what the business community is concerned about is we will have enough for the future, not only for economic reasons, but for recreation and lifestyle. It is conversation we should be having."