Almost from the beginning of settlement, the communities of Utah and Salt Lake valleys have used the Jordan to carry waste and sewage away to the Great Salt Lake. This created an understandable, albeit occasional, concern for the sanitary and aesthetic qualities of the river. After the river overflowed its banks in 1952, Salt Lake County built a diversion dam and the Army Corps of Engineers enlarged an already extant surplus canal. There followed a program of dredging and straightening the river channel to reduce the damage caused by periodic spring floods.
Throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s the Jordan continued to be used as a waste disposal canal for area slaughterhouses, packing plants, mineral reduction mills, and laundries. In 1973 the Utah State Legislature created the Provo-Jordan River Parkway Authority to establish programs to enhance the natural quality of the river and to develop park and recreational facilities, water conservation projects, and flood control measures. By 1976 the Salt Lake Tribune was noting improvements in water quality and decreased industrial pollution, although some areas of the river still needed to be improved.