Well measurements follow aquifer “stress” test

On any given day of the week taking a walk with Ginger Risinger and Phillis Young might involve jumping ditches, wading through muddy streams or four-wheeling to obscure locations. Fortunately, my venture Thursday morning to learn more about how the Union County Conservation District measures water wells locally involved only a bit of mud on the bottoms of my dress pants.

El Dorado Water Utilities Well Number 11 sits near Miles Street and Smith Avenue. It's one of a series of wells Risinger and Young are responsible for measuring.

As a hydrology technician with the UCCD contracted with the Union County Water Conservation Board, Risinger is charged with measuring water levels and taking samples from water quality wells from a network of more than 130 UCCD wells and 28 UCWCB wells (seven of which are in Louisiana), explained Sherrel Johnson, the UCWCB grants coordinator.

Risinger and Young, her recently-hired assistant, spend their days measuring between six and 10 wells daily in the five-county region (which includes Union County) deemed a critical groundwater area in the 1990s when the process of rejuvenating the industrially over-utilized Sparta Aquifer began.

The process of measuring a well is cumbersome and involves a heavy 500-foot steel tape measure dropped down into the well, Risinger said, explaining that when El Dorado Water Utilities Well Number 11, near Miles Street and Smith Avenue, was first drilled to its 700-foot-plus depth, the measure didn’t even reach the water line.

Risinger and Young drop the steel measuring tape into the well, checking the footage to which the line fell before reeling it back in.

In reeling the steel back in Thursday morning, Risinger and Young kept their eyes on the lookout for the oil line, which they advised is created by vegetable oil dropped into the water wells in place of motor oil, which was formerly used to identify the water line. The oil is used to “lubricate the turbine motor and any excess runs into the well and floats on top so when you measure that is what marks the tape,” Risinger explained Tuesday.

Dropped to 487 feet, the two pulled the measure back in until they spotted oil at the 377.54-foot-mark — demonstrating more than a 100-foot increase in the last two months since the well was measured.

Risinger explained the unexpected increase may be due to the aquifer test which began Jan 24 and used seven wells to pump continuously for a week straight as a method of “stressing” the aquifer to measure its response for yet another week. may be due to the fact that the well’s pumping mechanism has been turned off for several months rather than the requisite hour a well must be inactive before it’s measured.

After reeling the tape back in, Risinger points to the oil line on the measure, explaining that this is the mark that demonstrates where the water level has risen.

Historically, measuring water levels has shown a great response from the aquifer due to the efforts of the UCWCB and UCCD to educate the public to the necessity of preserving groundwater, Johnson said. The two entities function together as peer reviews that affirm each well’s respective measurement.

The measures are done in conjunction with measurements done by the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission throughout the state, Johnson added. However, in the near future, the ANRC will cease measuring a number of the 113 wells of the more than 130 monitored by the UCCD to eliminate the duplicitous data.

More to come in the News-Times on the aquifer test’s results when they become available.

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