Citizen science is increasingly crucial to sustainable resource management.
A Community-Based Groundwater-Level Monitoring Network (Community Network) is a group of private wells – often pumping from the same local aquifer – in which groundwater level is measured regularly. The owners of these private wells – residential, industrial, agricultural – have made the decision to share their water-level data and are communicating with each other or with local groundwater professionals. The spatial extent of a Community Network composed by private wells is typically bounded by hydrogeologic, geographic, or political boundaries. An example is presented in Figure 1, a Community Network that is defined by the extent of three counties in West Central Wisconsin – Dunn, Chippewa, and Eau Claire Counties.
Motivation for Joining or Creating a Community Network
A common motivation for private well owners to join or create a Community Network is a perceived or quantified threat to their groundwater resource – this threat can be to the water quality, the water availability, or both. Other motivations include the interest in gaining a better understanding of the hydrogeology of their groundwater resource or the interest in sustainably managing their groundwater resource in a changing climate. And a contributing factor to the need for a Community Network is often the decreasing ability of regulatory or science agencies to meet monitoring needs.
Recognizing the need for a Community Network and the value it brings to groundwater resource management, is based on a firm understanding of the competing demands on a local groundwater resource. In creating a network, it is important to clearly articulate the motivation or threat so that the required spatial and temporal density of network data can be defined. It is also important to identify the stakeholders who depend on the resource, to define points of collaboration and dispute, and to plan the network so that collected data will be relevant to the stakeholders. Education and outreach across the community, not just the participating well owners, is important as well. Identify ways to educate stakeholders and the public on the value of collected data and to collaborate with local organizers to conduct outreach and public meetings to recruit well-owners to the network.
Characteristics of Community Networks
While successful Community Networks might have features unique to their own setting and situation, they typically share these important characteristics:
- the network has spatial and temporal data density that is appropriate for the critical hydrogeologic questions about the local resource,
- data collected by the network are of high quality,
- data collected by the network are shared with all participants,
- the network embraces the scientific method for collecting and interpreting data,
- the network respectfully engages qualified professionals to interpret data, characterize the groundwater resource, and guide sustainable management,
- the network accepts that while some data tell a very intuitive and straightforward story, it is often the case that networks providing spatially-distributed time-series data sets will reveal a complicated and non-intuitive story.
Wellntel makes Community Networks easy, efficient, and valuable
Wellntel is the first real-time groundwater-level information system designed to create community-based monitoring networks that provide the insight needed to sustainably manage groundwater resources. The system uses simple, reliable and accurate sensors and a cloud-based visual and analytics platform to turn private domestic, industrial, and agriculture wells into real-time monitoring networks, to engage stakeholders, to identify risk, and inform management decisions.
With Wellntel, communities can:
- build real-time, continuous groundwater-level monitoring networks quickly and cost-effectively
- identify pumping impact and environmental influences to understand risk and opportunity
- engage local stakeholders
- create dense, rich datasets to inform management decisions and improve groundwater-flow models
Figure 2 provides an example of groundwater-level data collected by a Wellntel community network in Texas. Water levels in these residential wells decline in the summer months due to reduced recharge and increased pumping. Water levels begin to recover in October as precipitation returns to the area. The spatial and temporal density of this network has been designed to provide insight into questions around permitted spacing of wells that will contribute to sustainability of the local groundwater resource.
Planning for the appropriate number and locations of monitoring wells in community networks is important to provide the required spatial density for the hydrogeologic problem to be investigated. Figure 3a presents an appropriately defined Community Network that is composed of 29 Wellntel systems and is defined by the extent of the Village of Richfield in Washington County, Wisconsin. Figure 3b presents a Bubble Map depiction of changes in water level in wells over a 6-month period of time in 2019.
Community networks have been created in many states across the US by Wellntel and our partners. Contact Wellntel’s VP/BD Charles Dunning, PhD, to learn more about Wellntel’s Community-Based Groundwater-Level Monitoring Networks and to explore possibilities for your community.