Wellntel Bringing Talent and Technology to California’s Growing Groundwater Networks

Lee Knudtson, with years of experience helping customers utilize Wellntel Technology and Groundwater Data, will anchor Wellntel’s work in the state of California.

With the 2014 passage of the historic Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), California has set an ambitious goal to bring the state’s critically important groundwater basins into a sustainable regime of pumping and recharge. Because groundwater is best managed at the local and regional level, new Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA), Irrigation Districts (ID) and their hydrogeologist partners are charged with the creation and implementation of the needed plans to bring their basins into equilibrium.

Wellntel’s groundwater-level networks are the perfect solution for GSAs building new and growing existing starting monitoring programs. In addition to being easy, fast, convenient and cost-effective, Wellntel technology provides rich, accurate and dense data. These data will be key to supporting Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) and local decisions, while, at the same time, engaging the community and connecting its stakeholders, a key requirement of the legislation. Planning a network for the first time involves working with consultants, GSA leaders, and the community, something Wellntel has done in the creation of networks in 20 states. To support GSAs in the design and implementation of their GSPs, Wellntel is making new investments in California.

After three years as Wellntel’s Technical Support Lead and a short summer sabbatical to travel and explore, Lee Knudtson has re-joined Wellntel’s sales team as California’s Network Development Representative. He brings to this position a deep understanding of the power of Wellntel technology and groundwater monitoring networks, along with strong customer relations and extensive field experience. He will be introducing Wellntel to local agencies and their partners, sharing national network deployment experience, and helping communities to quickly start monitoring, engage stakeholders, track progress, and make resource management decisions. Lee will bring a team of scientists, engineers and groundwater and data specialists to every project. For an introductory meeting, contact Lee at  ljknudtson@wellntel.com.

Welcome back Lee!

Lee Knudtson

Wellntel announces major performance upgrade with SP3 (Sounder Probe 3)

Wellntel Sounder Probe 3In time for winter, Wellntel is pleased to announce Sounder Probe 3 (SP3), a technical advancement that improves operation and performance even in wells with limited ventilation and where seasonal temperatures and dew points can affect sensor signal strength.

Wellntel is engineered for rugged conditions, including intense sun, hot and cold temperatures, and, of course, water. Components are selected for long life and stable operation despite a wide range of conditions. Our plastic is UV-stable. Our electronics are encapsulated. Everything needing to be outside is waterproof.

That said, an odd assortment of variables sometimes come together to frustrate some customers. A main focus of our engineering team this year has been on solving this complex problem.

The condition occurs when there is very little movement of air into and out of the well, when background relative humidity is high, and when there are dramatic downward swings in outside temperature, like at dusk in the early winter. When these conditions come together, large quantities of dew form inside the well near the ground surface. Since there is no air movement to cause the dew to evaporate or shed, some of it can adhere for very long periods.

While prior generation sounders technically survive these periods, dew forming on part of the sounder probe can render it temporarily deaf, so a system is unable to deliver consistent readings when it happens.

SP3 solves this problem. By sealing the sounder and replacing solid surfaces with slick, flexible ones, while not inhibiting pressure and sound, SP3 sounders will operate much more consistently during periods of extreme dew formation. We expect that 80-90% of dew interruptions will be prevented by using the SP3 sounder .

As with all Wellntel components, SP3 sounders will carry a one year warranty against manufacturing defect. It is critical that installation and operation guidelines are followed closely to ensure proper operation. New materials used on SP3 sounders will eventually degrade – we anticipate 2-3 years of useful life – and will need to be replaced. Wellntel technicians will monitor system performance and alert when replacement is required. Replacement will cost $20 + shipping.

Starting today, every new Wellntel sensor shipped from the factory will include an SP3 sounder. All customers with a Wellntel sensor in the field and still under warranty can request a free upgrade to SP3 by emailing techsupport@wellntel.com. And all customers with sensors out of warranty can upgrade to SP3 for $20 + shipping.

Wellntel at Badger Rock Center finds hydrologic connections

Wellntel systems at the Badger Rock Center are tracking groundwater and water in storage on the south side of Madison, Wisconsin. Data from the systems help neighbors, gardeners, teachers, students, and facility managers to see connections between rainfall, rainfall collection, pumping for irrigation, and groundwater levels in the shallow aquifer underlying the school, its gardens, and the neighborhood.

Recently, representatives from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources visited the center. For the meeting, Wellntel scientists completed and shared analyses of data from Wellntel and USGS sources, comparing precipitation and surface water records with groundwater information gathered at Badger Rock Center’s hand-pumped groundwater well, demonstrating the link between rainfall and changes in groundwater level in the shallow aquifer:

Rainfall and Groundwater Level at Badger Rock Center - Madison, Wisconsin

… and a clear connection between surface water levels at nearby Lake Monona* and groundwater levels at the Badger Rock Center:

Surface Water and Groundwater Level - Badger Rock Center, Madison, Wisconsin

In addition to offering these insights as a Wellntel Sentinel site, the Badger Rock Center has plans to become a hub for a Community Groundwater Network  (CGN) in and around Dane County.

The CGN will help Dane County farmers and residents understand resource availability and lower operating risk and cost, in addition to providing key, previously unavailable groundwater facts to  support smart water management in the economically and ecologically vital Yahara Basin. Look here for additional announcements and information about that CGN as they become available.

*Two Wellntel systems at the Badger Rock Center are one mile from the south west shore of Lake Monona. One measures groundwater level in the shallow aquifer, the other measures rainwater captured on the site and stored.


Badger Rock Center to Lake Monona

Surface water nutrient loads shown to receive significant contribution from groundwater

Dense groundwater-level data – as gathered by Wellntel CGNs – are essential to meet TMDL testing needs

Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) guides restoration

The US EPA’s 303(d) Program of the Clean Water Act assists states, territories and authorized tribes in submitting lists of impaired waters and developing the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for a stream or river. TMDL is a regulatory term describing a plan for restoring impaired waters that identifies the maximum amount of a pollutant – the load – that a body of water can receive on a daily basis while still meeting water-quality standards. A TMDL is composed of load allocations for both point sources and nonpoint sources.

Excessive nutrient levels measured in >40% of US river miles studied

While nitrogen and phosphorus are essential for a healthy aquatic ecosystem, an excess of these nutrients in a waterbody results in overgrowth of aquatic plants, increased harmful algal blooms, decreased light penetration and decreased levels of dissolved oxygen. Any of these conditions reduces the recreational use of the water for people and makes it difficult for fish and other aquatic animals to live. The US EPA National Rivers and Streams Assessment (2008/2009) evaluated 1.2 million miles of rivers and streams in the US and found that more than 40% of river and stream miles have levels of nutrients that are too high.

As reported by the US EPA, The primary sources of nitrogen and phosphorous pollution are runoff of fertilizers, animal manure, sewage treatment plant discharges, stormwater runoff, car and power plant emissions, and failing septic tanks. In the Mississippi River Basin, which spans 31 states and ultimately drains into the Gulf of Mexico, nutrients from row crops and concentrated animal feeding operations contribute the most nutrient pollution.”.

A source of nutrients that is often overlooked is groundwater baseflow to streams and rivers.

Broadly, baseflow is the flow of a stream or river that exists even when there is no direct runoff of precipitation over the land. In other words, baseflow is the flow of the stream when it has not rained for many days and so there is no precipitation-related runoff. Man-made point discharges of treated wastewater or permitted releases can contribute to baseflow. However, groundwater discharge is usually the primary contributor of sustained baseflow in a stream or river.

Impossible to meet a TMDL if the nutrient contribution of groundwater baseflow is not accounted for

If the nutrient load from groundwater baseflow is not well quantified or is ignored, it will be very difficult or impossible for local managers to meet the nutrient management objectives established by a TMDL. What is known about the nutrient load of groundwater? A comprehensive national analysis of nutrients in streams and groundwater was conducted by the US Geological Survey (USGS) using data collected from 1992 through 2004. The analysis was published in 2010 by the National Water-Quality Assessment Program as USGS Circular 1350.

A major finding of the analysis was that nitrate concentrations greater than the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) are more prevalent and widespread in groundwater than in streams. In fact, of studies in shallow groundwater in agricultural areas, 83% percent had one or more samples (of 20 to 30 wells sampled) with a nitrate concentration greater than the MCL. Only 28% of sreams in the agricultural areas had one or more exceedence. In urban settings, 52% of studies documented one or more samples with a nitrate concentration MCL exceedance, compared to only 7% of streams.

From: Dubrovsky, N.M., and Hamilton, P.A., 2010, Nutrients in the Nation’s streams and groundwater: National Findings and Implications: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2010-3078, 6 p. Accessed August 3, 2017 at https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2010/3078/.

The analysis goes on to state that  “Groundwater contributions of nutrients to streams can be significant — particularly for nitrate.”. As part of the study, 148 small streams across the Nation were assessed and it was found that for two-thirds of these streams, at least one-third of the total annual load of nitrate load was derived from baseflow. In certain hydrogeologic settings, groundwater can also contribute a significant phosphorus load to streams.

The USGS analysis in Circular 1350 documents at the national level what has also been observed in numerous local and smaller-scale studies. One example is demonstrated by the following figure from an urban study conducted by the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota. The graph shows that the contribution of groundwater baseflow to the total nutrient load of surface water is significant for both phosphorus and nitrogen, but particularly nitrogen. This urban area was almost completely sewered for stormwater and the year-round, dry-weather flow in the stormwater system was monitored for flow, nutrients, and other chemistry.

From: Importance of Hydrologic Pathways to Urban Nutrient Loading and Implications for Current Stormwater Management Practices. Ben Janke Dept. of Ecology Evolution and Behavior University of Minnesota janke024@umn.edu, October 16, 2012, accessed at https://www.wrc.umn.edu/sites/wrc.umn.edu/files/trackbsessionii.pdf on August 2, 2017

For communities involved in developing a TMDL to protect and manage their water resources, USGS Circular 1350 provides a very important caution, quoted here –

“Full accounting and assessment of groundwater contributions of nutrients to surface water is a critical step in developing management strategies to meet water-quality goals for protection of drinking-water supplies and aquatic life. For example, omission of groundwater contributions of nutrients from Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) calculations can result in errors in the allocation of loads to other sources that need to be controlled.”

Hydraulic gradients must be defined to quantify nutrient transport and baseflow loads

To fully account for the contribution of groundwater to an established TMDL, the flow and dynamics of the groundwater system must be well known. In Relevance of Water-Level Data to Ground-Water Quality Issues, USGS Circular 1217 published in 2001, it is stated that predictions of the speed and direction of movement of ground-water contaminants – including nutrients – are “based on determination of the gradient (slope) of the water table or potentiometric surface in the affected aquifer”.

From Portage County web site, http://ww3.co.portage.wi.us/groundwater/undrstnd/gwmove.htm access August 14,2017

Periodic measurements of groundwater level are often insufficient for defining a potentiometric surface that is dynamic and changing in response to seasonal hydrologic events or pumping stresses. As also stated in Circular 1217 ”longer term water-level measurements are often needed to develop an understanding of how ground-water contaminants migrate from their sources through the ground-water system.”. This is particularly true if groundwater flow models are used in predicting nutrient transport in groundwater. Water-level data of “sufficient duration and frequency of measurement are needed to calibrate and evaluate the reliability of the flow component of these models before realistic simulations of contaminant transport can be made.”.

Wellntel networks provide the critical time-series data necessary to define hydraulic gradients at a scale to quantify local groundwater flow and nutrient transport

Local, state, and federal mandates for assessing and monitoring local water resource continue to expand. The successful management of water quality in watersheds requires understanding the dynamic contributions of both groundwater and surface water. TMDLs will be successful only if the groundwater baseflow contribution of nutrients is understood and accounted for.

Wellntel sensor systems have been designed explicitly to provide the temporal density of data necessary to observe dynamic groundwater systems responding to a range of stresses. And networks of Wellntel systems provide the spatial density necessary to define potentiometric surfaces, quantify hydraulic gradients, and support the assessment of contribution of groundwater baseflow loads to a TMDL.

Look for image showing greater network density (Richfield?)

Wellntel provides the means to quantify the groundwater nutrient contribution with greater accuracy at a much lower cost that has been possible before. In quantifying more accurately the groundwater contribution to nutrient loading, a more precise TMDL can be developed which will then have a greater likelihood of success.












Introductory meeting at the Riveredge Nature Center on September 6th at 6:30pm

Learn how citizens of Ozaukee and Washington Counties can build a Community Groundwater Network

Neighbors, farmers, schools, and businesses of Ozaukee and Washington Counties can work together to understand groundwater, create smart local agreements, increase social and economic resilience, and protect the land and property value.

Experts will share facts about area groundwater, you can see live demonstrations, discuss project goals, and enjoy refreshments and conversation.

Learn more about and RSVP for this meeting here.

August 17th: Groundwater in South Benton County Oregon

Alpine Oregon

Learn how citizens and neighbors of South Benton County Oregon can work together to measure and understand groundwater, build community support for smart local management, and protect property value.

See live demonstrations, discuss project goals, enjoy refreshments.

At the Alpine Community Center
6pm – 8pm, August 17th


Download and share a flyer for this event:

Building a community groundwater network in South Benton County Oregon

John Teppler joins Wellntel as Technical Lead

Wellntel is excited to announce the addition of John Teppler as Technical Lead.

John has been working closely with the Science, R&D and Commercial Teams for the last month, learning about Wellntel Sensor, Gateway and Cloud technologies, participating in research projects in the lab and the field, and of course, supporting customers and sponsors with answers to questions and system improvements.

John joins Wellntel with a BS in Geosciences, passions for hydrology and hydrogeology from University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, and deep experience with sensors, data, and groundwater using tools like ArcGIS, ArcMap, MATlab, GroundwaterVista, MODFlow and MODPath. During his work as an Undergraduate Researcher at UWM, he focused on distributed temperature sensing in ground to surface water interactions. During field work, he helped induce geyser eruptions using hydrostatic pressure near Green River, Utah.

John gets groundwater and is eager to help others get it too.

Most importantly, John is personable, quick, and creative. Customers will appreciate his straight talk and responsiveness.

John can be reached at jpteppler@wellntel.com or via the Wellntel toll-free number, which is 844-935-5426.

Wellntel Announces Sensor Firmware V2 (SV2)

Today, Wellntel is announcing Wellntel Sensor Firmware V2 (SV2). This new firmware is important in two ways:

1.) It substantially improves the ability of an out-of-the-box sensor to find and track groundwater levels with little or no calibration in a wide range of physical and acoustic well conditions, and when situations in the field change. Therefore, it simplifies start-up, improves dataset consistency, minimizes false alerts, and reduces future sensor attention. Sponsors, Members and Owners get great results faster, they last longer, and are more useful in a network.

2.) It does these things while not affecting sample-level accuracy of the sensor.

With SV2: Wellntel is more efficient, simpler to benchmark, and network ready. What does that mean?

  • Remote systems start up more quickly. Most SensorLink systems (systems that do not utilize a Wellntel Gateway) will find and track water with little or no local calibration effort.
  • Comparing results from Wellntel to other measurement devices, like tapes or pressure transducers is straightforward. Since there is far less chance of a noise or distance-based error, there is less need to run long tests to find and apply average offsets. Said simply: if proper well height information is entered at registration, tape, calibrated transducer and Wellntel readings should match.

  • Groundwater networks are easier, faster, and more reliable. V2 firmware is especially useful in creating local groundwater networks normalized to elevation. Since V2 sensors will find and track water faster and more consistently, a network can be installed, started-up, and, with proper cloud-side well settings applied, will deliver model-ready data in the first hours of operation, and continue to do so for years, as long as the systems remain powered.

V2 firmware is being installed on all sensors leaving the Wellntel factory as of this week. All existing Wellntel sensors are compatible with V2.

Since this is a major upgrade, remote upgrade is only possible if done locally by a qualified Wellntel technician or by returning the sensor to the factory for upgrade. Current owners and sponsors wanting to take advantage of these new capabilities should make plans to return their sensor(s) the factory to be refreshed and reprogrammed with this new firmware, or to have a technician visit and conduct the upgrade in the field, where possible.

There is a one-time $100 charge/sensor, including shipping both ways, for a factory upgrade, and upgrade work will be done on a first-come, first-serve basis. Sponsors and owners can order upgrades at this page.

Wellntel Launches the Community Groundwater Monitoring Network in a Box

Wellntel’s Community Groundwater Network in a Box is a citizen-science breakthrough and enabler of true public/private partnerships to improve rural life and resource resilience.

Five systems, well-placed, create a new standard for local groundwater understanding and agreements.

Community Groundwater Network Dashboard

A Community Groundwater Monitoring Network in a Box is a way for a community to come together to learn and grow. A Sponsor (a township, business, village, not-for-profit, or group of neighbors) pulls together the funds to purchase the sensors and data servicers, and recruits Members who agree to host this systems and create the network. The network gathers information about groundwater that has not been available until now, and can be used to ensure community resilience.

Placed strategically in a county, watershed, around high-capacity pumping wells, or near a surface water body, a Community Groundwater Network is an opportunity to assess and/or monitor local risk, view groundwater pumping impacts on local lands and people, see seasonal variations/impacts on the resource.

Sensors can be programmed to deliver near-realtime data at a time-interval as long as once a week, or as frequent as once an hour (or faster, depending on application). Programmable alerts will call for action when it is warranted. Telemetry is included: data is sent using existing internet infrastructure (very small data requirements), with no fees for bandwidth or airtime. Cellular telemetry is available for remote locations. Calibration is one-time and lasts as long as the system is well-maintained.

What’s in the box?

  • Five Wellntel Static Kits, including sensors, batteries, gateways, and all parts, pieces and instructions to install and commission and run the network for three years.
  • Five Member accounts, including access to well hydrographs, area data, system water level and operational alerts, and ability to add and remove Member User accounts
  • One Sponsor Master Account, including regional view, well level and area data, local alerts, and the ability to add and remove Sponsor User accounts
  • End to end security and privacy. Device-level encryption and Sponsor/Member privacy control.
  • Sponsor Program Support, including boilerplate agreements, location planning, well-suitability tools, installation guidance and on-call technical support.
  • Software tools to support local diagnostics, D2W snapshots, and more.
  • Three years of Sponsor Data Services, including monthly data scrubbing, preparation and coding for external models, databases or reports.

Sponsor Data Services can be prepaid or billed and paid monthly.

Organizations interested in Sponsoring a first network between now and August 15th are invited to take advantage of special discounts on hardware. Email cpdunning@wellntel.com or call 844-935-5426 to discuss project goals and receive discount coupons.

Community Groundwater Network in a box

Community Groundwater Network in a Box

Gateway Firmware Update Improves System Resilience

We’ve been working to improve system uptime and data integrity, and today, we’ll begin rolling out new firmware that does both.

What’s new in Gateway Firmware V1.2.14:

If you are using a Wellntel Gateway for telemetry, you’ll like two improvements in our latest version of firmware.

1.) Some Wellntel Gateways have shown susceptibility to local network changes or conditions that can cause a Gateway to lose its connection to the cloud without warning. Data are not often lost, but can be temporarily interrupted until the owner responds to our request to take action to reset the system. This new firmware should significantly reduce the need for action. By default, Wellntel Gateways with V1.2.14 or later will automatically call for fresh network instructions once a day, so little owner/member attention will be required.

2.)  We’ve seen rare but bothersome periods when Wellntel Gateways have temporarily issued improper time that they received from public NTP servers, causing sensors to send data for up to a day with time stamps 24 hours old. While we can’t definitively call out hackers as the source of these time-shifts, there is good reason to believe that their work is at the root of these errors. It should be said that the Wellntel network — hardware, firmware and the cloud — is hardened and secure and has never been compromised. Instead, shared time-issuing servers on which all Internet computers depend are the target and the culprit. Regardless of the source, V1.2.14 firmware ensures that even if NTP servers are temporarily compromised, data from your Wellntel equipment will not be.

Our plan is to begin pushing this firmware to all live Gateways this week. Most customers will not need to take any action. In the rare case that need your help, expect that a representative will reach out directly to ask for it.

And a special shout out to customers, sponsors and members who stepped up to beta test this package. You know who you are. Thank you!

As always, if you have questions, please feel free to contact us during regular business hours (9am – 5pm Central) at 844-935-5426 or email techsupport@wellntel.com.

Team Wellntel