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Well-drilling fails; parched Mendon turns to geophysics to find water

By Jordan Floyd

MENDON — The search for water in Mendon will be revived this month, and if successful, it could mean the end of the city’s longstanding struggle with dry culinary water wells.

City engineer Eric Dursteler, Mayor Ed Buist and the City Council worked during the past month to gain approval from the State of Utah to use loan funds previously allocated for another project.

“Unfortunately, after two failed deep-well drilling attempts, the city put a hold on more drilling efforts and the remaining loan funds were mothballed,” Dursteler said. The city engineer decided to try to use the unspent funds on an “electro-geophysical groundwater investigation,” he said.

Although the state has not yet OK’d this use of the funds, Buist believes the city will be able to conduct the survey.

“It does sound like we can use the money,” Buist said. “We will continue as planned with the projects.”

The project will likely begin by mid-December, assuming the city is prepared and weather doesn’t present too much of a challenge. The survey targets three specific areas in Mendon: south of city limits, near Mountainside Elementary School, and east of the city cemetery.

“These surveys are very successful in locating water, or indicating the absence thereof,” Dursteler said.

Electro-geophysical surveys locate groundwater sources with either electromagnetic currents, or a seismic echo, Dursteler says. If the area has a groundwater source, the electromagnetic current will elicit a reciprocal magnetic current that is measured back at the surface, he said.

The second method works by introducing a seismic wave into the ground. “As the seismic wave propagates through the Earth, it agitates both the rock matrix and the pore fluid, but not at the same rate,” Dursteler said. If there’s groundwater, he said, the seismic wave creates a detectable electrical impulse.

The electrical signal is captured and measured at the surface, which allows a surveyor to approximate where and how much groundwater lies below.

If the city’s survey is successful, the next step will be for Dursteler and the City Council to consult with the Utah Division of Drinking Water and decide where to drill for water.

Dursteler is confident in the groundwater survey methods, which could mark the end or yet another chapter of the city’s culinary water woes.

Last Fall, the city had to declare a moratorium on all new construction because low water supplies would not support more residents.