Since the first settlers arrived in the Provo area in the mid 1800's, water has been diverted from mountain streams for irrigation. As growth continued into the 1930's, it became apparent that additional water from adjacent drainages would be essential to assure an adequate supply of water to the irrigated area and to facilitate future growth. As an indication of the water shortage, during the period 1931-1935, storage in Utah Lake fell from 850,000 acre-feet (ac-ft) to 20,000 ac-ft. A desperate water shortage was also experienced by Salt Lake City in the 1930's. As a result of these water shortages, the City of Provo and five other Utah County communities that needed additional domestic water supplies joined with Salt Lake City and the irrigation interests to sponsor the Provo River Project.
The Project was initiated under the provisions of the National Recovery Act of 1933 and approved by the President in 1935. Construction of the Project began in May 1938, with the first water becoming available in 1941 upon completion of Deer Creek Dam. Construction of some features of the Project was severely hampered by wartime scarcities of manpower, materials and funds. Work on the Duchesne Tunnel had to be stopped in 1942, although construction continued on a small scale on the canal system and the Salt Lake Aqueduct. In 1947, full-scale construction resumed. Construction of features of the aqueduct division started in 1939 and was completed in 1951. Several improvements and facilities have been constructed since the original Project construction, such as the dikes and easements along the Upper Provo River. The Association was eventually contracted by the Bureau of Reclamation to maintain and operate Project features, and loaned the Association funds to continue building, operating, and maintaining the Project. The Association is in the process of repaying loans from the Bureau of Reclamation, and full repayment is expected in 2027.
Today, the Project provides a supplemental water supply for irrigation of farmlands in Utah, Salt Lake, Summit and Wasatch Counties, as well as an assured domestic water supply for communities in northern Utah County and the Salt Lake Valley. The key feature of the Project, the Deer Creek Dam, is located on the Provo River approximately 16 miles northeast of Provo City. The dam stores water from the Weber River diverted by the Weber-Provo Diversion Canal, flows from the headwaters of the Duchesne River diverted by the Duchesne Tunnel, and Provo River flood flows. The Other major structures of the Project include the power plant at the dam, Weber-Provo Diversion and Canal, Duchesne River Diversion and Tunnel, Murdock Diversion Dam, Provo River Aqueduct, and Jordan Narrows Siphon Penstock and Pumping Plant.