Provo is going underground to store millions of gallons of water

Jun 29, 2023, 7:00 AM

Provo residents conserved 700 million gallons of water last year. Combine that with the runoff from...

FILE: Water gushes over a ledge in the Provo River with historic levels of runoff. Provo City is looking to store excess water in underground aquifers to preserve it for future droughts and for generations to come. (Allessandra Harris, KSL NewsRadio)

(Allessandra Harris, KSL NewsRadio)

PROVO, Utah — Provo residents conserved 700 million gallons of water last year. Combine that with the runoff from a record-breaking snowpack, and that’s a lot of water that Provo officials need to store.

Provo City water resources manager, Ryan York, says the solution to this problem lies underground.

Aquifers store water underground

Aquifers are naturally occurring underground layers of rock or other materials, such as silt, that can easily store and transmit water. According to Provo water managers, the city already has a large network of aquifers.

“We’ve got large, underground aquifers that hold this water. Then, when we have droughts or times of need, we can pump that water out and use it.”

As rain, melted snow, or irrigation water seeps into the earth, it becomes naturally filtered and then stored in the aquifers. Because they are underground there is less risk of losing water to evaporation or contamination.

“Utah Lake has a tremendous amount of evaporation lost every year,” explains York.

Evaporation claims over half of Utah Lake’s annual inflow. And only five to seven percent of evaporation from both Utah Lake and the Great Salt Lake falls as precipitation in the state.

Underground, the water remains cool and clean, and available.

Benefits of aquifers in Provo

Most of Provo’s water comes from the ground through wells and springs.

Because of Utah’s long drought, over the last few decades, water levels in Provo’s aquifers have dropped. So for the past several years, Provo City has been piloting an aquifer recharge program.

“Provo is trying to get that water in times of excess and put it back into the ground in strategic locations that benefit the city and surrounding communities by increasing the water levels in our aquifers,” said York.

The city has found several specific locations where water placed at the surface will seep into the earth and raise the level of the aquifer below.

Now, York says Provo is looking to expand their program to “not only save that water in the ground but also use available sources such as the excess water in the Provo River,” to provide water for future generations.

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Provo is going underground to store millions of gallons of water