Fairview water shortage goes from
bad to worse as key well pump fails
By Suzanne Dean
FAIRVIEW—In late May, when an official of the Cottonwood-Gooseberry Irrigation Co., the company that supplies secondary irrigation water in Fairview, warned residents that irrigation water was probably going to run out this summer and they should get used to brown lawns, the water situation in the town looked dreary.
Then things went from bad to worse. A pump that draws water out of the so-called Sammy Well, which provides extra culinary water that residents draw on in summer to supplement irrigation water, broke down.
That failure has forced residents to get serious about ceasing to water their lawns, and in some cases their vegetable gardens, trees and shrubs. And it has left city officials scrambling for both an immediate and long-term fix for water problems.
As soon as the Sammy Well shut down, the city posted messages on its Facebook page and signs around town asking people to stop watering their lawns. Then it posted a graphic on the Facebook page showing total water consumption. Based on the graphic, people complied with the city’s request.
“Our arrow has moved from ‘danger’ back to green,” Mayor Dave Taylor said in an interview on Friday, June 22.
Voluntary restrictions are still in place, and lawns all around town are going from green to brown.
On Thursday, June 21, the Fairview City Council voted to buy a new pump for $13,000 and to bring special crews in to install it, which, according to Taylor, will cost $30,000 to $40,000. With luck, the job should be completed in three weeks.
But neither the mayor, nor the city council, nor the city water master, nor the city’s consulting engineers expect the new pump to last a long time.
For various reasons, the Sammy Well has never functioned very well. Since it was drilled in 2001, the city has pulled the pump out six times and spent $67,000 on repairs.
It now appears that unusual water chemistry inside the well is corroding well components including the pump. Nonetheless, the city council decided it had to act.
“We don’t have a lot of choices,” Taylor said. “We need to get the well pumping again because people need it for their landscaping.”
“All this is a band aid to get us through right now,” Councilman Mike Jensen added.
Fairview gets its culinary water from three sources. Its biggest source is springs near Fairview Lakes in Fairview Canyon that flow into a pipeline, which brings
the water down the canyon into town.
The second source is the so-called Lower Well, also in Fairview Canyon off Canyon Road. The city draws on both of those sources to meet everyday culinary water demand.
The Sammy Well (it got its name from the name of a farmer who owns land nearby) is in the southeast corner of town. In the wintertime, it is seldom used. But in summer, when indoor water use is typically higher than in winter, and when people hook up hoses to hose bibs on their houses to supplement secondary irrigation water, the Sammy Well, starts pumping.
When working properly, the pump in the Sammy Well delivers 130 gallons per minute. In late May, production dropped to 30
gallons per minute. At that point, it was clear the pump was failing, and the city water superintendent intentionally shut it down.
“The citizens want green grass,” Taylor said. “We (city officials) want it. We’re taking a hit big time. I realize people have gardens. We realize people have trees and shrubs. This pump went down at the wrong time.”
Aside from summer needs, the Sammy well plays an important backup role. If something happened to the pipeline carrying spring water, such as a water main break like Ephraim just experienced, or if the Lower Well shut down for some reason, the city would need the Sammy Well to meet basic water demand.
“If we lost the Lower Well (while the Sammy Well was shut down), we’d be in dire condition,” Taylor said.
About June 15, the city called in a consulting hydrologist with a high density digital camera. “We cameraed all 386 feet” of the Sammy Well, Taylor said.
The pictures gave city staff and consulting engineers a better picture than they’ve had over the past 17 years of some atypical things that might be going on in the well.
There is a stainless steel mesh, designed as a filter, that goes around the circumference of the casing in certain vertical areas of the well. Holes are developing in the mesh.
There is a gravel lining outside of the casing. It appears rocks from the gravel are getting through the holes, dropping into the pump and damaging it.
Just before the city council meeting, the city received a report from Horrocks Engineers of Pleasant Grove, a water engineering firm.
“Without significant repairs, installation of a new pump will likely result in failure in a short period of time,” the engineers warned. The report said atypical water chemistry inside the well was leading to “significant corrosion of the well pump, column pipe and casing.”
A chart in the report offered various options, ranging from “do nothing” to development of more canyon springs.
The price tags on the options ranged from $40,000-$75,000 for “minimum repairs,” the option the council essentially chose; to as much as $1.2 million for a new well; to possibly $2.5 million for new springs development.