We just wrapped up February’s print issue here at National Driller. As always, we put a lot of great stories in about all kinds of drilling. But I wanted to give you a preview of one for the groundwater professionals out there.
Associate editor Valerie King spoke with scientists at United States Geological Survey and Argonne National Laboratories about an innovative way to date groundwater. It can give estimates as far back as about a million years. The method uses Krypton-81, an isotope that doesn’t naturally occur underground, to figure out how long since a water sample seeped below ground.
Think about that for a minute. Million-year-old groundwater fell as rain to dampen our campfires while we were still getting the hang of this fire thing.
“When we drill a well and get water out, we can pump as much as the pump will allow us to withdraw,” researcher Pradeep Aggarwal told us. “But what we pump in five minutes may have taken hundreds of thousands of years for water to accumulate.”
I want to drill into that comment and install a quick casing from this February story to one we did in December. In that month, we wrote about a pair of satellites that help us understand the ebbs and flows of groundwater: where it is and, importantly, where it isn’t. The GRACE satellites measure changes in groundwater storage and have provided important details about, for example, California’s ongoing drought.
As I see it, these are the two most important aspects of sustainability. We need to ask where the water is and how long it’s been there. Answers to those questions can help drillers and groundwater professionals, as well as policy makers, ensure the resource — and the jobs it provides — lasts.
Clients, from homeowners up to municipalities, probably don’t think a lot about where their water comes from. You turn on a tap, and there it is. Magic. Drillers and pump professionals know better. In arid areas like Texas and California it’s a race these days to see who can sink the deepest straw. Drillers understand that the water we use took thousands of years — maybe even a million — to get where it is. Most drillers also understand that recharge is a process that takes a longer time than any of us have.
So, my question for you is, how much do you think about the science of groundwater? Do you ignore it and just drill? Or do you try to keep informed, so that you can help your local, state and national leaders keep informed, as well?
I would never ask a driller to not drill. That’s not going to happen. It’s what you do to make a living, to feed your family. But I do encourage drillers and other groundwater professionals to stay informed about the science of what they do. You have an advantage over the homeowner or county politician who only understands water as something that always — and will always — come out of the tap. You see what it takes to actually get the water from the ground to that tap.
That's valuable knowledge.
Groundwater is a vast resource, but it’s not unlimited. Drillers know it best, so it’s their duty to maintain that knowledge and share it with the people who make the decisions about laws and regulations.
Keeping informed and helping others understand what the science says can do a lot to ensure that, when you pass your business on to your kid, he’ll have water to drill for.
Thoughts? Rants? Let me know at email@example.com.
Stay safe out there, drillers.