Irrigation, Water Management, Water Supply, Mormon Pioneers, John A. Widtsoe, Utah Agriculture, Economic Development in the West, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake Valley


Beginning in 1847 Mormon pioneers used irrigation or the artificial application of water to land and soil in order to establish an agrarian system in Utah’s sub-humid Salt Lake Valley. Early leaders and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) viewed irrigation as a means of fulfilling the biblical prophecy of Isaiah, “The desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose” (Isaiah 35:1), although early pioneers and leaders realized that the Salt Lake Valley was not exactly a desert. In fact, some Mormon leaders described it as a “rich fertile valley.” Although a few Mormon pioneers had prior experience with irrigation, the early Mormon pioneers in Utah initially had a difficult time establishing an effective irrigation system. “The Desert Shall Blossom As the Rose: Pioneering Irrigation” provides an overview of the struggles and successes of early Mormon irrigation efforts. This article was originally published in Pioneer, Summer 2003, pages 10-14. Published in this same issue on pages 24-25 was the sidebar entitled “John A. Widtsoe,” which describes Widtsoe as “an international authority on soil chemistry, irrigation, and dry-farming.”

Original Publication Citation

J. Michael Hunter, "The Desert Shall Blossom As the Rose: Pioneering Irrigation / John A. Widtsoe," Pioneer, Summer 2003, 10-14, 24-25.

Document Type


Publication Date


Permanent URL


Sons of Utah Pioneers




Harold B. Lee Library