Urban and suburban areas of large cities impose great challenges to geophysical surveys because of high-level ambient noise. This is particularly true for controlled source audio-frequency magnetotellurics (CSAMT) because the frequency range of the method overlaps those of many civil and industrial noises. Among the different types of noise sources, perhaps the most noticeable one is the 50-Hz power grid. We have successfully applied the CSAMT method for groundwater exploration in a suburban Beijing area where the ambient noise level is about three times as high as would normally be encountered. Several steps were taken in assuring quality use of the method, including careful survey design, adequate frequency range selection, and large transmitter dipole length and transmitter-receiver spacing. The next step was static effect removal through low-pass filtering and topography correction to remove any nonhorizontal component in the electric field measurement. Finally, a 1D inversion method was applied to construct an (apparent) resistivity cross section. The survey revealed a low-resistivity, water-bearing layer sandwiched between a surface cover layer and the bedrock. The available well data suggested that the depth of the bedrock was accurately mapped, to within about 2 m, at a depth level of 150–165 m.

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