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Maintenance workers shut down water supply to 2 counties

By John Hollenhorst | Posted - Mar. 9, 2010 at 6:00 p.m.


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WEBER COUNTY -- The primary water source for Davis and Weber counties is totally shut down, and there are some very interesting things going on underground. It's a result of many months of planning, to assure a limited interim supply and get a very big job done before it runs out.

The Weber River brings mountain water to the Wasatch Front. For nearly 60 years, much of it has flowed into a vast system of concrete vaults and pipes. Sunday night, experts cut off the flow to get their first good look inside in a long time.

"No suspicions of problems, but just a knowledge of the age of the pipeline," explained Tage Flint, general manger and CEO of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District.

Some tunnels they inspected the old-fashioned way -- on foot with flashlights. In tighter sections, they are making way for the Mud Master.

The Mud Master is a tunnel rover with a video camera for detailed, high-resolution inspection of pipelines to make sure there are no cracks and leaks. It can even go underwater and scope things out with sonar.

The inspection involves 28 miles of tunnels and pipes, including the 9-foot-diameter Gateway Tunnel in Weber Canyon and the smaller Davis and Weber Aqueducts. The buried pipelines carry water as far as Ogden and North Salt Lake.

In some sections, they're using ground-penetrating radar to get a better feel for how the whole system is holding up.

"So far, really good; really encouraged by what we're seeing," Flint said. "The concrete seems to be in really good shape."

To keep water flowing to homes, farms and businesses, they're pumping well water uphill to water towers and reservoirs; but it won't keep up with demand for long.

"We have a short window of time -- about a week here that we planned -- that we feel comfortable with," said Mark Anderson, chief engineer for the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District.

They're doing as much cleaning and maintenance as they can squeeze in by Friday.

"Regardless of where we are in our assessment, we will button it up and charge the line back up," Flint said.

The Weber Basin Water Conservancy District decided the shutdown was worth the cost and the hassles if it assures a safe, reliable water supply. Still, it's not cheap. It costs more than $750,000 for a week of inspections and maintenance.

E-mail: jhollenhorst@ksl.com

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