Using Geophysics to Site “Forebay-Type” Managed Aquifer Recharge Systems in the Wasatch Front of Utah

Presented on Tuesday, December 3, 2019
John Jansen, Ph.D., PG, RGp1, Shane Jones, P.E.2, R Jeffrey Davis, P.E.3, Brian LeMon, P.E.4 and Phil Sirles5, (1)Collier Geophyiscs, West Bend, WI, (2)Department of Public Works, City of Provo, Provo, UT, (3)Barr Engineering, (4)Barr Engineering, Minneapolis, MN, (5)Collier Geophysics, Lakewood, CO

Recharging confined aquifers in the center of layered basin fill aquifers can be difficult or impractical. In California several recharge systems have been developed to recharge multi-layered aquifer systems in the forebay, the portion of the basin adjacent to the mountain front where most of the aquifers begin as a single mass of sand before becoming separated by clay confining units into the basin. These systems have been operating for decades in both the Los Angeles Basin and San Francisco Bay Basin. Based on preliminary evaluations, it appears that similar recharge opportunities may be present along the front range of the Wasatch Mountains of Utah.

Geophysical surveys, consisting of electrical resistivity and seismic refraction tomography, were run in three adjacent canyons for the City of Provo, Utah. An initial set of surveys were run during low flow periods to;

  • Map locations where the valley aquifers are in connection in the mountain front recharge zones,
  • Map the location of the Wasatch Fault zone
  • Map the shape of the bedrock valley aquifers that may be controlling gaining and losing stretches of the stream, and
  • Map the volume of unsaturated sediment.

The resistivity surveys were repeated during spring snow runoff high flow conditions to map the change in the unsaturated zone. Data from stream gauges and mass balance calculations were used to estimate the recharge rates during the spring runoff event. The data will be used to design a groundwater model to design recharge systems for up to 32,000 af in one or more of the canyons. The geophysical surveys helped find the optimal locations and methods to recharge the water and helped determine how much water can be recharged in the winter without increasing flood risks in the spring and summer.

John Jansen, Ph.D., PG, RGp
Collier Consulting, West Bend, WI
John has a B.S. in Geology and a M.S. and Ph.D. in Geological Sciences with an emphasis in hydrogeology and geophysics, all from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is a Senior Geophysicist and Hydrogeologist for Collier Geophysics. John works on a wide variety of ground water projects around the country specializing in high capacity wells, aquifer recharge, and groundwater resource management. He received the NGWA Keith A Anderson Award in 2012 for service to NGWA and the groundwater industry and was the NGWA McEllhiney Distinguished Lecturer in Water Well Technology in 2013.

Shane Jones, P.E.
Department of Public Works, City of Provo, Provo, UT
Shane is the Principal Engineer for Provo City Water resources
R Jeffrey Davis, P.E.
Barr Engineering
Jeff is a Senior Hydrogeologist/Environmental Consultant with Barr Engineering in Salt Lake
Brian LeMon, P.E.
Barr Engineering, Minneapolis, MN
Brian LeMon is a Vice President at Barr who has been helping permit, plan, and design water systems, in one way or another, for over 30 years. Brian has been active in AWWA for over two decades. Over 1.5 million people drink water from systems Brian has helped plan, permit, and or design.
Phil Sirles
Collier Geophysics, Lakewood, CO
Phil is the operations manager for Collier Geophysics Lakewood Colorado office
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