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El Dorado News-Times
Monitoring wells being installed in the county
August 12, 2003

The eyes of the nation are upon us, according to hydrogeologists, as two new Sparta Aquifer monitoring wells are completed within a two-week period.

A 809-foot well was completed Thursday on the future site of the new tourism center near the intersection of U.S. 167 and U.S. 82.

H2O Well Services of Hampton began drilling the second well on the Old Union School campus Saturday, two days after the school board approved the project that it intends to use as an educational tool.

The two new wells and four existing wells in South Arkansas and North Louisiana will be used to collect Sparta Aquifer water level data that will be posted on the Union County Water Conservation Board website (www.ucwcb.org). The UCWCB, in conjunction with the Union County Conservation District, worked to obtain the grant from the Environmental Protection Agency for the five-year study, but the United States Geological Survey and the UCCD will monitor and log data from the wells.

A USGS display will allow visitors to the El Dorado center to see the positive impact that local conservation efforts have made on the Sparta Aquifer water levels, which have increased for the first time in more than 40 years.

Community efforts and industry water sharing programs have already decreased Sparta water consumption by 20 percent in El Dorado, where overuse has caused a 390-foot deep depression in the aquifer beneath the city.

Another 50 percent decrease is expected when the Ouachita River Pipeline project is complete and capable of transporting water to local industries, according to Burns and McDonnell project manager Craig Noble.

According to United States Geological Survey Hydrogeologist Daniel Yeatts, those results are remarkable and worthy of attention. "This project is unique throughout the nation," said Yeatts. "We are seeing the depletion of the Sparta and other aquifers occurring across the nation.

"Union County has addressed the problem and others in the nation are watching to see what happens here." Campbell Scientific, headquartered in Logan, Utah, developed the state-of-the-art cellular system prototype for the water monitoring project that will send data to the USGS office in Little Rock every six hours using cell phone technology. "The system is new and unique enough that the company is watching it to see how it will market it to others," said Ralf Montanus, hydrologic technician with the USGS.

According to Union School Superintendent Rodney Barnette, the Old Union School Board unanimously approved the campus drilling site for the second new well during Thursday.s meeting.

The school board hopes that students can learn more about the Sparta Aquifer as they incorporate the well studies into the high school.s science curriculum.

"We had hoped they would be drilling the well while school is going on so the kids could watch the entire process, but we learned they will be done drilling by next Thursday," Barnette said.

Students will get to see the project from start to finish via videotapes and the USGS will conduct quarterly observations and provide presentations to the students beginning in the fall.

"We're excited that the students will see all the different aspects from the drilling to the monitoring of the well.

"We're really looking forward to it and know that it will be a great experience to have this on our campus," said Barnette.

"I think it's great for the kids to have exposure to such an important situation. I think it will make them pay attention, and it might even direct a few of them into a related occupation. It's a wonderful opportunity for a school of our size," he said.

Kenny Burson, president of H2O, has drilled water wells around the country and around world, but he considers this a "major project" and a "showcase" of which he's proud to be a part.

"This is nothing more than everyday work for us; we deal with ground water everyday - it's my livelihood.

"I'm as concerned about the future as anyone," he said. "I've seen similar situations throughout our area, from Louisiana to Texas. This is not an unusual problem, but this is the only place I.ve seen doing anything about it."
Caption written below Site
New well Kenny Burson, left, president of H2O Well Services, works with two others to remove a drill bit from the 829-foot well at the future tourist information center site on U.S. 167 South. The United States Geological Survey will use the new well to monitor changes in water levels of the Sparta Aquifer.

¬©El Dorado News-Times 2003
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