Have you been to Park City, Utah or thinking to visit? 

Check out this blog post about Park City’s water system and how it relates to silver mining, snowmaking, skiing, the Olympics, Sundance Film Festival, energy, money, and smart meters!

On August 16, 2017, our research group left their computers to visit Park City, Utah and learn about its interesting water system.

Group[1]Jim Stagge, Chad Busch, David Rosenberg, and Adel Abdallah (left to right). Photo credit: Ryan James   

Although Park City is a small town of 8,000 residents, it has a unique water supply profile in the following mix of water, mining, snow, recreation, energy, money, and conservation.  

Mines for Silver and Water  

Historically the city was home to 300 silver mines [1]. Now the city draws drinking water from one of the closed mines, the Spiro Mine Tunnel [2].   

Tunnel[1]Spiro Mine Tunnel 

Skiing, Olympics, Film Festival, and water 

Park City is famous for its world-class ski resorts with 4.5 million skier visits in the 2015-2016 season [3]. It hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics and annually hosts the Sundance Film Festival, with 71,600 attendees in 2017 [4]. As you can imagine, visitors contribute to a large portion of the water demand

Peak Demand and Snow! 

Park City’s annual peak water demand does not occur in the summer, like the majority of US cities (largely for outdoor water use), but rather it is in late fall/winter for snowmaking. The city supplies Park City Mountain Resort, the largest resort in the United States [5], with water from the Spiro Mine Tunnel for snowmaking when needed, especially early in the season. See this snowmaking video [6] 

Snow Making Going Down at Park City Mountain Resort, Nov 2013 by Tyler Plane

Mountains, Water, and Energy 

Park City has 43 pressure zones with approximately 1,800 feet elevation difference between lower and higher elevation houses [2]. A pressure zone is a physically isolated water network within the city that has a range of acceptable water pressure. Imagine how much maintenance and energy the city spends to pump water to those resorts and houses uphill. Park City is committed to run on 100% renewable electricity for city operations by 2022 [7]!

Water, Money, Membranes  

The City has a complex water treatment facility. The operational cost per a million gallons of treated water ranges from approximately $233 at the Spiro Mine Tunnel up to $1,235 at the Quinns Junction Water Treatment Plant. The cost are due to the expensive treatment process which infiltrates water through membranes that require a high energy demand.  

The city imports water to the plant from the Weber River. Pumping water uphill and over long distances to the plant which consumes significant energy. Once water arrives at the plant, there are a series of storage tanks, filters, and chemical processes like chlorination to treat water before it is pressurized into the membrane system.

The city experiences freezing temperatures most of the winter, so they often need to heat up the plant space to maintain the process within the proper temperature range.



Water filtration membranes (left) and Chad Busch showing the membranes inside a cartridge (right)

Water Conservation and Smart Meters  

City managers have a water conservation campaign and a goal to replace the old analog water meters (read every month or so) with smart meters that measure and transmit water use more frequently such as every hour. Park City also contracts with a private company, WaterSmart (WaterSmart.com), to automatically read the meters, detect leaks, provide customers with an online portal and detailed information about their use, and identify opportunities for customers to conserve water.

 Old_meters[1]Old meters at the Spiro Water Treatment Plant shop 

Lunch Picnic

After the tour, we went on to the City Park to rest and have lunch (and drink water). We discussed the group plans for Fall 2017. After exchanging and discussing a few ideas for a group activity, we decided to dig deeper into a common challenge that is relevant to each of us and others: reproducibility. We decided to review literature on the subject, come up with a rubric to evaluate reproducibility of already published papers, and write up a review paper on best practices to improve reproducibility in the field of systems water modeling and hydrology modeling in general.  


Water Reservoir Hike 

On the way back to Logan, the group stopped at Echo Reservoir [8], a 74,000 acre-foot run-of-the-river reservoir located on the Weber River and constructed in 1931. Echo Reservoir primarily supplies irrigation water along the Weber River, down to Ogden and the eastern shore of the Great Salt Lake, Utah. This reservoir plays a key role in the water supply system managed by Weber Basin Water Conservancy District. A Echo Reservoir, Utah  hydroelectric power plant was added to Echo dam in 1987.
 Reservoir[1]Echo Reservoir, Utah  

Our final stop as we made our way down the Weber River was the Gateway Hydroelectric Power Plant, where a portion of the Weber River is diverted through the Wasatch Mountains by the 3.3 mile Gateway Tunnel. 


1Special thanks to Ryan James (left) in our group who took the lead in planning and organizing the trip. A corner of the water treatment facility with the intake pipes 

Chad Busch, Park City’s Water Treatment Superintendent, provided our tour of the Quinn’s Junction Water Treatment Plant, Spiro Mine Tunnel, and Spiro Water Treatment Plant. We appreciate Chad’s time and the support of the Park City Municipal Corporation to facilitate our tour. 


  1. Silver, Gold, and Snow — Mining the Riches of Park City, Utah 
  2. Water Division, Park City, UT Public Utilities 
  3. Associated Press: Utah ski resorts notch record year for visitors
  4. Sundance Festival
  5. Park City Mountain 
  6. Snow Making Video at Park City Mountain Resort, Utah
  7. Renewable Energy
  8. Echo Dam, Weber River Project Summit County, Utah, Safety of Dams Modification, Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact 




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