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Ground Water Perspective

hydro at workHere at the well site, where we are collecting valid data to serve you better, we have time to think. Then we write it down for your benefit. Check here on occasion to see what we here at Ground Water Science have to say about various things; wells, ground water, the world... from that underground point of view. We also invite you to take a look at our Ground Water Science page on Facebook where we post news, links, and comments of interest, and attempt to engage in dialog.

sampling wells in Queensland

Lately your correspondent has been reflecting: have we made any real progress in biofouling control in wells? I don't mean the science or technology, where there is undoubtedly real, revolutionary progress.

We're talking about the point of application, at the town wellfield. I think there is not enough progress, and not because we have not been making the effort to put the advances in front of the end-user audiences.

  • We write: Standard Methods, independent texts, chapters in association texts, articles ...
  • We talk:  Conferences, seminars, short courses ...
  • We're here on the web and in social media ...

It is time the managers -- that is, those with the power of the purse, pay attention. A lot of the front-line managers and operators get it. It is time to fully embrace better methods and shed the overpromoted and underperforming.

Read the commentary and let us know what you think.

Download this file (Reflections on 35 years-b.pdf)Reflections on 35 years-b.pdf[ ]121 kB

By Stuart Smith, Ground Water Science partner

My partner Allen Comeskey and I have been National Ground Water Association members for many years now. The NGWA is the U.S.-centered multi-sector professional and technical association focused on the ground-water industry. "Ground water industry" is a loose term for the science, engineering, technology, manufacturing, and distribution of goods and services to define, develop, manage, maintain, and protect ground-water resources. It is a very broad field, of course, and encompasses numerous disciplines and skill sets, from manufacturing water well casing caps to managing bioremediation programs.

Recently, I had the privilege to be part of a membership promotion feature for the NGWA with a nice Q&A interview.

I have a long association with the NGWA - in fact working for the staff in a long-bygone age (1979-1983) defined my career. For that I am grateful and very much appreciate the ongoing friendships from that time. That experience, the contacts and encouragement to risk and stretch, and the wider perspective I gained -  combined with an education, personal experience, and personality that favor integrating all kinds of information to solve problems set me on my career path. Personal self-discipline and independence made the foundations of our practice possible. Allen brought his own self-discipline, technical rigor in hydrogeology, wide-ranging curiosity and willingness to expose "the emperor has no clothes" which completes who we are.

I mean all the high-sounding advice in the article.

In our case, a better industry - ground water and water supply in general - with higher expectations favors people like us. Improving practices and references raises the standards for all and makes for a better product. And if the profession and industry have invested in you, you give back and pay it forward. That's the bargain in any social contract. We can't selfishly just take and not do something for the next generation.

So yes, we encourage NGWA membership (and membership in other relevant organizations as well) and being an active member.

Over the last several years, our Stuart Smith has had new opportunities to provide training in international venues, including:

  • Wellfield developers in Jordan (2012 and 2013)
  • Water Utilities East Africa Conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (2012) and small-scale training in Dodoma (2013)
  • Project-team training in Jordan, multinational and multidisciplinary audience (2012)
  • Unconventional Gas and Water – The Big Picture in Toowoomba, Queensland (2014) and biofouling assessment training for the Queensland Department of Natural Resources Management Coal Seam Gas management group (2015)
  • The Sustainable Wellfield: An Asset Management Workshop, presented at a workshop organized by the Vodovod-Kanalizacija Ljubjana, Slovania (also 2014)

DUWASA presentationWe are in the midst of developing  a workshop for water and sanitation authorities in Tanzania.

Additionally, we have had opportunities to assist intraining U.S. Army Reserve drillers providing water supply drilling in Ethiopia.

It is nice to give training, but if you wish to (and you are wise), you learn, too. We learn how

  • East African utilities do asset management (often better than USA utilities), use GIS and take mobile payments
  • How advanced Tanzanian practices are in using geophysics in water well siting in difficult fractured rock terrain (and sometimes the weaknesses in their technique.
  • How Queensland government, industry, and land owners collaborate and cooperate to provide baseline water quality information and to monitor for problems with coal seam gas development
  • The Vodovod Ljubjana maintains exceptional product water quality for > 300,000 people using source water protection -- no engineered filtration or chlorination.

Ground water model demo in Ljubjana

It is gratifying to gain experience in making the concept of wellfield asset management and life-cycle cost-based planning translate in various cultures.

This kind of collaboration in training and learning improves our understanding of tasks we face, and gives us that wider perspective. And we get to meet interesting colleagues the world over.

We can supply courses to you as well (in English) and take proposals to develop on-line web-instruction courses.

The drive to include wellfield systems in overall utility water supply asset management has been a welcome development, logical, long overdue, and can be challenging.

The processes of asset management (including the preventive maintenance component) of “top-side” systems of water utilities is rather mature, based in design, material selection and other application of corrosion engineering (inspection, coatings, cathodic protection, etc.). Water treatment plant components are designed to be accessible and repairable/renewable, and increasingly equipped with in-line sensory systems. Water line installations are corrosion-resistant and lifespans and stresses well-known. Water tower maintenance is likewise a mature discipline. Costing and amortization of such systems is well-known.

Much of the above for the “top-side” systems is likewise true for wells and their associated systems (well pumps, controls, power systems, and the raw-water connection system). However, wellfields are often viewed as mysterious or “a different animal” compared to pressure and distribution systems.

Three features set wellfields apart:

  • Relative difficulty in inspection
  • Relatively poor accessibility for service, requiring specialized procedures
  • Long and close interface with an uncontrolled environment that is happy to alter the materials and hydraulics of wells and their pumps, piping, valves, controls and instruments.

Combined with typical water systems operations and management unfamiliarity with wells and hydrogeology, asset management of wellfields may seem daunting, and best left to specialists with special techniques.

A lack of familiarity with wells and the hydrogeologic environment may lead to being tempted by “special techniques” or “silver bullets”

While innovation is always to be encouraged, the ground water exploration and supply field has long been an attractive one for selling “special techniques” (going back to dowsing or water-witching) because of the “mystery” of ground-water supply.

The special conditions of wells (difficult to inspect and access, intimate with the “wild”, and frustrating to maintain sometimes) may make “special techniques” such as specialized maintenance treatments, attractive when sold as an all-purpose cure.

If attracted to “special techniques”: Insist on real-world data histories. Does it become less effective over time? What does it really cost over the years? How do you know it works? Only one vendor?

In reality – the strategies for maintaining above-ground assets is true for wells: Predict, monitor, inspect, treat at intervals, budget – these techniques work. It is rational and works on your budget.

We evaluate your situation, recommend immediate steps, and teach how to manage your wellfield in the long run, just like you manage your above-ground system – without “magic”.

Recommended reading:

Our selection of information resources.

Our products and services (references, well testing, and consulting)

Contact us.

Wow! It's been that long? It just occurred to us that our web site is at least 15 years old. If you are old enough to be an adult that long ago, you may remember that was -- if not the Paleozoic -- then the Stone Age of web sites. But we've been here since then.

The late 1990s was a time of change in this practice. Prior to 1996, partner Stuart Smith was consulting as a sole proprietor and partner Allen Comeskey was in previous professional employment. Smith-Comeskey Ground Water Science LLC was formed in this period by the partners, and work accelerated in this relatively prosperous period in the economy.

old GWS banner ad

That World Wide Web thing was also spreading into the interior of the country and off university and government campuses. Companies were forming web sites. By mid-decade, the Lima, Ohio-based internet service, WCOIL, was offering dial-up internet service and web site hosting for businesses and individuals, and it served Ada, Ohio, our headquarters through 2000. About late 1997 (we’ve lost track), with the help of WCOIL’s Jeff Oestreich, we put up a web site. And remarkably enough, in the same year, it attracted a large government customer. “Can you really do what you say you can do here?” the customer asked. “Of course!” we reply and a long relationship was born.

If you have written code manually, early web site development was something like that. Web sites were written in HTML language, and before there were true WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) HTML editors such as Microsoft Frontpage (remember that?), a web editor often encoded by hand, entering the HTML commands to make the page look as the writer desired. The initial Ground Water Science site was written in the HotDog HTML editor, but making changes was easier just inserting the codes. As using DOS-based software was still part of the mix, this was no burden. An upgrade in composing ease came in the form of Netscape Composer. Frontpage and the like were really expensive and never became necessary.

From the first, this web site was conceived as both an information resource and a major sales window on the world. The “cool” thing about web sites was that it put you on a more equal footing with larger competitors. As many of those sites were sterile and strictly sales, ours stood out in its throwback helpful information style, which many appreciated.

Communication across generations. Now, the developers and brain trust at Ground Water Science are Boomer-age technogeeks. We read books and are comfortable with dense text. Our younger advisors, including our current (and only ever) webmaster, hated the look. By 2005, we had a new site written on the Joomla platform, with essentially the look you see today. Major upgrades in 2011 improved function. This site keeps the best of the “internet is information for all” throwback features. The platform permits us content editors to load on our quirky content. As we have no bosses or legal department chains around our necks, we try to keep it different from those of our corporate creature colleagues.

Current logo

Anyway, enjoy. Tell us if it is useful. Make suggestions. Call or email if you need anything technical from us. We’re here to make a living.

Office - Western Ohio

Western Ohio (Main) Office
295 S. Lawn Ave.
Bluffton, OH  45817

Office - Appalachian Plateau

Appalachian Plateau Office
22 Edgewater Dr.
Poland, OH  44514

Tip of the Day

While protected ground water often requires water treatment, it is less complicated to treat than surface water and lacks the hormones, endocrine disrupters, and other undesirable byproducts of human contact found in surface water.