July 24, 2008

New Resource in Place for Water Monitoring

By Anna Ferguson, The Brunswick News, Ga.

Jul. 24--The conundrum of a fresh-water supply in Brunswick being contaminated by salt water may soon be resolved.

The U.S. Geological Survey recently designed and installed a measurement system using satellite telemetry in a two-square mile area near the city, in an effort to monitor against fresh ground-water contamination.

USGS engineers are hopeful that this high-tech equipment will show why the area is being infiltrated with saltwater, and will offer ways to reduce the water infringement.

Prior to this installation, crews could only monitor the water and salinity levels on a yearly basis.

However, the new equipment will help the city monitor potential movement of saltwater to any surrounding fresh ground-water resources, said John Clarke, a USGS hydrologist.

"This real-time capability is a critical tool for state and local authorities to manage water resources effectively," Clarke said.

Saltwater contamination isn't isolated to Brunswick, as it is a serious issues for many coastal communities that depend on aquifers for their water supply. When ground water is removed at a rate faster than is it recharged, saltwater filters into fresh water zones.

The Upper Floridian Aquifer is Brunswick's main water source, with water contamination stemming from fractures in rock, leaking saltwater into freshwater zones, Clarke said.

The real-time monitoring devices are a part of larger network of wells that the USGS samples for chloride concentrations to determine the amount of saltwater movement in the Upper Floridian aquifer. Ground-water levels and chloride concentrations have both been monitored in the area since the 1950s as part of the Brunswick-Glynn County cooperative Water program.

Monitoring the wells is vital for the community, and is important to residents' health and well-being, said Keith Morgan, director of the Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission.

"These wells are extremely important as they provide an early warning system against further expansion of saltwater contamination into freshwater zones," Morgan said.


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