Wednesday, June 28, 2017

It's Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Groundwater Restoration}

If an aquifer becomes contaminated or overdrawn, then the people, animals, and plants living on top of it are in serious trouble.  We know that it is important for groundwater to be recharged through natural means like rain and snow, but is it possible for humans to help put the aquifer back in its original condition?

It is! We do this through a process called Aquifer Restoration. This process is done usually by the utilities department of cities and towns or by Natural Resources Districts.  Many people including engineers, data analysts, well drillers, and geologists have to work together to make the groundwater safe again.

Nitrate Concentration Map
for Hastings, NE 2015
Credit: Hastings Utilities
Let’s take a look at Hastings, Nebraska which is just finishing up Phase 1 of their Aquifer Storage and Restoration Project.

Hastings’ water system gets most of their water from the Ogallala and High Plains Aquifer and they do not currently treat, chlorinate, or store their water but they have started to experience problems with nitrates, volatile organic compounds, and uranium. 

In order to continue to provide usable water, Hastings’ Utilities team initiated the Aquifer Storage and Restoration (ASR) project in 2016.  They built dual pumping wells which help clean up nitrates and uranium floating that the top of the aquifer, a reservoir for managing irrigation, and are just beginning to construct reverse osmosis treatment centers to help consolidate and remove pollutants.

The reservoir holds enough water
 to fill 66 Olympic pools.
Credit: Hastings Utilities
Over the next few years, they plan to study recharge in the area and investigate why groundwater recharges faster in some parts of the city than in others.  They are combining research with restoration to make sure that their city has clean water and residents understand the need for and purpose of the ASR project.  To learn more, check out Hastings Utilities website.

To learn more about groundwater and try your own aquifer restoration activity, visit The Groundwater Foundation’s Groundwater Restoration website.

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