Assistant GM David Gardner: 40 years with Draper Irrigation/WaterPro

He’s been with the company so long, some people call him “Draper Dave.” He actually worked part-time for the company for four months in 1972 reading meters, but his career with the company really began in June 1977 when he became the company’s second full-time employee (Elmo Mills was the first).

The Early Years

One of his first responsibilities was serving as watermaster of the irrigation canal, where he had the responsibility of regulating the water that flowed out of the canal into the network of irrigation ditches that crossed Draper at that time. Farmers’ irrigation “turns” came at all hours of the day and night, so Dave worked long and irregular hours to change the weirs (outlets from the canal) so that water went where it was needed.

As watermaster, part of his job also involved patrolling the canal once a week to check forleaks, garbage, and anything else that required attention.

Dave also walked the mountain stream daily (about three miles) to clean grates and make sure everything was okay. He fixed leaks and took care of the company’s water treatment plan, which had gone online in 1971. He also read and repaired water meters.

In those days the company had no office. Customers paid their bills at Mickelsen’s hardware store on Fort Street. Each morning Elmo and Dave stopped at the hardware store to report where they would be working that day, so anyone with a water emergency could go to Mickelsen’s to ask where to find them. They also held “office hours” most mornings in the local coffee shop.

Changes in the Company

As Draper grew over the last 40 years, the company grew along with the community, and Dave was always part of that growth.

In 1977, the company had about 750 residential and commercial customers.  In 18 years (by 1995) that had doubled to about 1,500. But Draper was on the brink of explosive growth, so in the 22 years since the company’s service has increased by more than 500% so that now there are around 8,000 connections.

In 1977, the company had storage facilities for about 1.5 million gallons of water. Since then, Dave has been instrumental in planning and building additional tanks, and the company now has 24 million gallons of water storage for the culinary (drinking) water system.

In 1977, there was one water main, 8” in diameter, that fed most of the town. Dave has helped build up a water delivery system that now includes several lines up to 30” in diameter.

Pressure Irrigation and Water Treatment Plant

Dave’s first big construction project with the company began in 1991, when they received approval to build the pressure irrigation system. Dave worked with the engineers to lay out the system, approached the board, and worked alongside the engineers and construction company during completion of the $8.5 million project. After two years of construction, the PI project replaced the old system of canals, ditches, and flood irrigation that had been in place for over a century.

In 2002, Dave oversaw an upgrade to the company’s water treatment plant that increased capacity from 3 to 8 million gallons per day. As part of the project, the existing sand filtration system was upgraded to a microfiltration system using membrane technology. Dave also oversaw drilling a well and installing a hydroelectric generator as part of the project.

Present and Future

Even after 40 years, Dave is still looking to the future. His current big project is a plan to bring recycled and treated water from the sewer plant into the pressure irrigation system. Last summer’s algae bloom in Utah Lake underscored the need to develop new sources of water for the company’s pressure irrigation system, and recycled water is currently an underused resource.

In addition to his duties as Assistant General Manager at WaterPro/ Draper Irrigation, Dave also serves on the board of directors of the Rural Water Association of Utah and the Utah Lake Water Users. He has no plans to retire in the immediate future.