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Murray canal breach causing problems for businesses downstream

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MURRAY — The canal breach that flooded homes Saturday is impacting hundreds of users that rely on the canal for irrigation.

Now some are looking at the cost of using culinary water to keep landscape healthy and beautiful.

Salt Lake Community College's Taylorsville Redwood Campus has 115 acres of land, including 35 acres of green space. The canal is its primary source of irrigation water, said Bob Askerlund, SLCC's assistant vice president of facility services. “We are very reliant on this canal to be able to do basic irrigation.”

SLCC has been told it could be a month or more before the canal is repaired. Askerlund said the school will try to keep the campus as green as possible until then.

"We'll hit the trouble spots as best we can and try to keep things as green as possible through the repair period, and then try and recover once the canal is flowing again," he said.

Right now, the school is using a small pipe connected to its culinary system to water on a limited basis.

“We have to really watch how many irrigation zones we have on at a time so we don’t overtax incoming water,” Askerlund said.

An evening crew is doing the watering at off-peak times to eliminate as much evaporation as possible. Askerlund said every drop of water they can get into the ground will help the situation.

"When it gets hot and the wind blows, our trees really suffer if they're not watered heavily," he said. "So we're trying to compensate for that at this point as best we can."

The college was testing its sprinklers briefly Thursday, but that isn't an option for the Taylorsville Cemetery. The dried-up canal is just a few yards away from $10,000 worth of newly planted trees.

"So we are having to water those by hand, and if we go for two months without water, I don't know if these older trees will make it, or the grass or anything," said Lee Bennion, cemetery sexton.

The city is looking into tapping into a nearby drinking water line here, but those who care for the grounds worry a lack of water will soon take its toll.

"I want this to look beautiful for Memorial Day," Bennion said. "I don't think it will this year."

On Saturday, a breach of the North Jordan Canal sent a cascade of mud, rock and water into the homes along Saddle Bluff Drive (6765 South) and 1200 West. As many as eight homes were affected by the flooding, with three homes receiving substantial property damage.

Contributing: Richard Piatt

Email: rjeppesen@deseretnews.com