By Adam Murdock, CH2M HILL Project Manager

It’s not every day a person gets to work on a project that was originally constructed by a great-great-great-grandfather nearly 160 years ago, and that bears the same last name. Yet, that’s exactly what I’m doing with my involvement on the Provo Reservoir Canal Enclosure Project (PRCEP) in Utah – also known as the Murdock Canal. I have the privilege to be the project manager and the Engineer of Record for the PRCEP, for which CH2M HILL served as the design engineer and is currently providing engineering services during construction.

The Murdock Canal has been a critical water supply facility for over a century because of the early spirit, determination and foresight of people, such as my great-great-great-grandfather John Riggs Murdock, who envisioned and organized the construction of the first reach of the Murdock Canal. The first reach of the canal, constructed in 1851, diverted water from American Fork Canyon and conveyed it to fertile, but parched soils near Lehi, Utah. In 1911, the Murdock Canal was extended to the mouth of Provo Canyon by the Provo Reservoir Water Users Company so that water could be diverted from the Provo River and delivered to irrigation and municipal users in Utah and Salt Lake Counties. The canal traversed mainly farmlands and open areas in Utah County for most of its length in the early 1900s. The US Bureau of Reclamation enlarged the canal in 1944 as part of the Provo River Project, and since that time the canal has largely remained unchanged. As a kid I knew that the Canal was named for my great-great-great-grandfather, but being able to build upon his work and help provide a reliable water supply facility that will serve millions of people along the Wasatch Front for the next 75 to 100 years is an honor I never expected.

PRCEP is a significant step in the Provo River Water Users Association’s objective of enclosing the 21 mile long canal with a 126-inch diameter pipeline and increasing the capacity to help meet the growing water needs of the Wasatch Front. It will have the capacity to carry more than 400 million gallons of water daily. This landmark project was a significant undertaking and addresses public safety concerns associated with an open canal located in an urbanized area. The project also reduces evaporation and seepage losses, improves water quality, and provides a reliable water delivery system with reduced operation and maintenance requirements. Once construction is complete later this spring, the PRCEP will be the largest conveyance facility in Utah and provide water to over 1 million end users.

Improving the quality of life for our community is at the center of engineering projects, and is part of why I so enjoy being an engineer and working on these types of projects. I like problem-solving and being given a task that is challenging, and coming up with a solution that benefits people. It’s bettering the world we live in, and I suspect my great-great-great-grandfather felt the same about his endeavors so many decades ago.

Check out this video from KSL news which discusses the project further and includes a number of interviews, including one from Adam.

Adam Murdock is a Project Manager and Senior Conveyance Systems Technologist with the Water Business Group in CH2M HILL’s Salt Lake City office. He currently manages multiple design and construction services related contracts for many of the water utility agencies located in the Utah area. He also supports and leads design teams for projects within the Southwest Region. His experience includes project management and the design of water conveyance and transmission systems, hydraulic structures, stormwater and sanitary sewer systems, and water resources master planning.