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States digging deep to monitor water

States digging deep to monitor water
lee Wilder, left, collects bedrock samples as Mo LeClair drills through a deep core of granite in Kingston, N.H., Tuesday, June 2, 2009. New Hampshire is drilling a series of wells to monitor groundwater to allow scientists to check for contamination; learn about how long it takes for rainfall or melting snow to make its way into the supply; and keep tabs on how climate change, population growth and development affect the water. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
About a quarter mile into dense woods, geologists watch as a drilling rig twists a shaft deep into the granite bedrock of southeastern New Hampshire. They are searching for water — not to drink — but to watch.
State and federal agencies have been watching, or monitoring, lakes and rivers for more than a century, but less attention has gone to vast amounts of water in cracks and rock fissures deep underground, leaving a void in understanding a resource growing in importance as demands for water increase and surface water sources are being used to the fullest in many areas.
New Hampshire is drilling a series of wells to monitor groundwater in cracks in granite hundreds of feet below the surface. The goal is to allow scientists to check for contamination; learn about how long it takes for rainfall or melting snow to make its way into the supply; and keep tabs on how climate change, population growth and development affect the water.
State Geologist David Wunsch would like to share the information as part of a nationwide network.
"In the future, your water may come from hundreds of miles away, so in order to get that national picture of 'Are we depleting some area for the sake of another region?,' you need to have that national picture," said Wunsch, who represented state geologists on a national committee that has developed a national groundwater monitoring plan.
Groundwater provides drinking water for 130 million Americans and 42 percent of the nation's irrigation water, and while many states have monitored groundwater, they have done so for state-specific reasons, using different criteria. So, while groundwater supplies spread beneath large regions, monitoring generally stops at state lines.
"Some states have several hundred wells and sample them four times a year. Others have absolutely nothing," said Wunsch.
The goal of forming a network got a boost this year as Congress approved the SECURE Water Act, directing the U.S. Geologic Survey to work with states to develop a national monitoring program for underground water supplies, known as aquifers.
There is no national big picture on groundwater levels or quality because the information exists only "in bits and pieces," said Christine Reimer of the National Ground Water Association, in Westerville, Ohio.
She emphasized that a national monitoring effort would not put the government in charge of groundwater management, but said information showing trends or changes in groundwater quality or levels could help guide local decisions.
Montana approved groundwater monitoring in 1991 because its water information was inconsistent and not part of any system, said Thomas Patton, the state's groundwater assessment program manager.
"If you are going to relate precipitation to water levels in wells, you've got to collect precipitation over time and water levels over time," Patton said. "If you are going to compare water levels to development, you've got to have the water levels, over time."
Information collected from 900 Montana wells has been valuable, especially in watching how groundwater levels responded to six or seven years of drought and to irrigation or rainfall, he said.
Patton and Wunsch said ideally, states will gain information valuable to their own water planning and share with the federal government, which will share the cost of the monitoring.
Wunsch said monitoring will be a great help in New Hampshire, where more than a third of the state's population gets drinking water from bedrock wells. Before work began on the current network of 10 wells, the state had only one bedrock monitoring well. He hopes for significantly more.
Contamination is a particular concern around the country, he said, because homeowners are not required to test their wells. About 20 percent of New Hampshire's bedrock wells contain arsenic levels above the government standard. Bedrock water also contains uranium and radon, even unsafe levels of fluoride.
Another major concern is just how long it takes for rainfall or melting snow to flow down to, or recharge, the aquifer.
"We don't know how quickly rain gets to bedrock," Wunsch said. "It might take a day, a week, a year for it to migrate down."
Monitoring that process, over time, might show how climate change and development affect levels and quality.
For instance, rainfall that now percolates into the ground gets diverted by the paved surfaces of development and is carried away by storm drains.
And climate change may mean less snow around the country, with more rain, in more severe storms, Wunsch said, which could mean more groundwater, but at different times of the year.

Excess ground water seepage threatens Jodhpur

JODHPUR: While elsewhere in the state the ground water level is falling fast, Jodhpur faces a problem of plenty. The ground water level here,

especially in the city areas, has been on the rise and now seepage has become a grave problem for the ground water department.

Facing a mounting challenge to deal with this excess water, Harit Rajasthan, offers a solution that can not only take care of the surplus water but also change the way the city looks.

The focus is on the city gardens, which include both the public gardens like Mandore, Umaid and Nehru gardens and others in various parts of the city, which unfortunately are in shambles for various reasons.

Divisional commissioner, J P Chandelia says, "We have taken up the issue and work on Mandore garden has already started with the help of Public Works Department (PWD). The Mohalla Vikas Samities' have also been encouraged to take charge of gardens in their respective localities with no dearth of water."

Taking it further, some advocate more focused steps like planting water-absorbing plants and setting up of tube wells in the gardens. Updesh Karan Mathur, chief engineer, Ground Water Department, says, "Water-absorbing and fast-growing plants like Eucalyptus can be planted thickly around the city, especially in the localities where the ground water is too much. Besides, water supply to the gardens should also be increased not only to maintain them properly but to develop them further."

In addition to this talk of making operational the existing fountains in the city which are running dry and installing more such fountains across the city are being considered. The idea has potential though it can add financial burden to the civic bodies, which are facing financial crunch.

The administration is looking at multi-dimensional efforts to resolve the crisis and make most of the opportunity that the Go Green campaign offers. Efforts are on to extract water through pumps from 60 identified points and utilizing it for productive purpose.

"With the mission like this around, what else can be a better productive use of this abundance of water," says Chandelia, whose top priority is to use this water as a catalyst in this ongoing plantation drive across the city.

The authorities are also searching and encouraging users from private and government sector who can optimise the use of this abundant supply. At present, the BSF has been taking this water in the range of 1 lakh to 2 lakh litres, which is expected to be increased up to 5 lakh litres soon. Following their example the army and railways have also shown interest.

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