Living in a high desert, water is sometimes scarce. But it’s always a priority as the population grows.

For that reason Provo Public Works is running five studies on the city’s aquifers that feed into the wells where the majority of the city’s drinking water comes from.

“This is a pretty significant undertaking,” said Dave Decker, director of Public Works. “It is critical for our future.”

The studies vary in length of time but are all important to recharging the wells.

The Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) project began with preliminary work about two months ago and could extend as far out as seven years, Decker said.

“The aquifer tracking efforts by our public works department show a steady decline in groundwater levels, with the levels dropping 1-2 feet consistently each year in most locations, with other monitoring locations showing significantly greater declines,” said Nicole Martin, city spokeswoman.

Aquifers are best thought of as huge storehouses of water underground, Martin said.

“Groundwater is one of our most valuable resources, but not all of it is usable or accessible,” Martin said. “The void spaces in the rocks below the Earth’s surface can be filled with water. When these water-bearing rock areas readily transmit water to wells and springs, it is called an aquifer.”

Martin added, “Just as we can pump water out of an aquifer with wells, water can also be added to the aquifer, known as recharging. The recharging process occurs naturally through precipitation and snow melt in the mountains and foothills. It can also be augmented through man-made efforts.”

Decker noted that it can take years for water to travel through an aquifer to a well.

The studies are happening now because Decker said it’s the right thing to do for the future.

“We’ve had two or three years with good snowpack, and I feel not wasting an opportunity to save the water is important,” Decker said.

Decker said the city is in good shape right now. However, there is a decline in the amount of water in the wells.

“The aquifer tracking efforts by our public works department show a steady decline in groundwater levels, with the levels dropping 1-2 feet consistently each year in most locations, with other monitoring locations showing significantly greater declines,” Martin said.

The five test projects are in optimal locations to determine if the city can replenish the aquifer in a sustainable fashion without adversely affecting it in any way.

Martin said the data gathered during the spring testing period will provide the basis for a state grant request to continue aquifer replenishment on a more permanent basis.

ASR pilot projects are or will be installed at the following locations:

Rock Canyon

Riverview Park

5600 North adjacent to Provo River

3950 North between Canyon Road and Timpview Drive

South of 4800 North on the east side of University Avenue

The one in Rock Canyon was set up about two months ago. Drilling will start next week at Riverview Park.

There is little to no community impact, with most being completely unaware the project is even taking place, Martin said.

“Some of it varies from 100 to several hundred feet deep, with each well taking approximately two weeks to drill,” Martin said. “During this brief construction time, residents would see a drill rig, but upon completion the only visible signs would be an above-ground pipe approximately 10-inch in diameter and 3-4 feet high.”

Decker added the city has worked mostly with state agencies on the preliminary work so they can qualify to get licensing needed to do the whole project.

“We’ve worked with the Department of Water Quality, Department of Drinking Water and the Department of Water Rights,” Decker said.

“Several different strategies for recharging the aquifer are being investigated,” Martin said. “Infiltration basins, pipelines and pump stations will need to be constructed. Every effort is being made to make elements of the project aesthetically pleasing and environmentally friendly.”

Next week residents will be able to see water running in Rock Canyon. It is a test being done with drinking water going down the stream bed, Decker said.

When the snow melt begins, it will be normal for the spring runoff to do it naturally. This way Public Works can see the difference between the two.

Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can be contacted at gpugmire@heraldextra.com, (801) 344-2910, Twitter

@gpugmire

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