Irrigation use is an obvious benefit of Utah canals that has been recognized for over 100 years. This study attempts to illustrate other, less obvious, uses. the major use examined was recreational, but canals are presently functioning as storm drainage systems and have potential for diverting flood crests in many river systems.
Recreational use of canals falls into two categories. There is passive use such as its landscape values, affects on creating shade and bird-wildlife habitat, etc., that is difficult to quantify but no less important than active canal use such as tubing, hiking, bank-play, bicycling, etc. We selected several canals in and about Logan, Utah, and discovered considerable active use; this use will probably increase with suburban expansion. A Logan City canal that flowed year-round was also electro-shocked and found to have a resident brown trout population as great as many exceptional trout streams in the west.
The multiple uses of our case study can best be summarized as a contrast between community benefits and conflict. In return for the thousands of hours of public enjoyment that irrigation companies now provide, they get nothing but problems. We feel if communities don't begin to recognize the value of their canals and cooperate with canal companies to equitably share in the cost of public use, then canals of Utah will continue to be withdrawn from public use and become another amenity that is sacrificed to urbanization.
Kennedy, James J. and Unhanand, Komain, "Multiple Uses of Utah Irrigation Canals: Cache County as a Case Study" (1974). Reports. Paper 273.