The Brown and Sanford Ditch began operating in 1874. It irrigated farmland to the south and west of Big Cottonwood Canyon. It took its share of Big Cottonwood Creek close to where the water treatment plant is today.
For all irrigators using mountain streams, however, the greatest need for water came in late summer when stream flow was lowest. So, in 1908 construction began on dams on the Three Sisters Lakes (Blanche, Lillian and Florence) to provide water storage for late season irrigation. The dams were completed in 1910. In 1914 water rights owners decided to enlarge the dams, finishing them in 1934. When no longer needed for irrigation, the dams were breached in 1972. Salt Lake City bought the rights to the water stored in the Three Sisters Lakes for its culinary use.