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A novel high-frequency groundwater quality monitoring system

August 1, 2018

High-frequency, long-term monitoring of water quality has revolutionized the study of surface waters in recent years. However, application of these techniques to groundwater has been limited by the ability to remotely pump and analyze groundwater. This paper describes a novel autonomous groundwater quality monitoring system which samples multiple wells to evaluate temporal changes and identify trends in groundwater chemistry. The system, deployed near Fresno, California, USA, collects and transmits high-frequency data, including water temperature, specific conductance, pH, dissolved oxygen, and nitrate, from supply and monitoring wells, in real-time. The system consists of a water quality sonde and optical nitrate sensor, manifold, submersible three-phase pump, variable frequency drive, data collection platform, solar panels, and rechargeable battery bank. The manifold directs water from three wells to a single set of sensors, thereby reducing setup and operation costs associated with multi-sensor networks. Sampling multiple wells at high frequency for several years provided a means of monitoring the vertical distribution and transport of solutes in the aquifer. Initial results show short period variability of nitrate, specific conductivity, and dissolved oxygen in the shallow aquifer, while the deeper portion of the aquifer remains unchanged—observations that may be missed with traditional discrete sampling approaches. In this aquifer system, nitrate and specific conductance are increasing in the shallow aquifer, while invariant changes in deep groundwater chemistry likely reflect relatively slow groundwater flow. In contrast, systems with high groundwater velocity, such as karst aquifers, have been shown to exhibit higher-frequency groundwater chemistry changes. The stability of the deeper aquifer over the monitoring period was leveraged to develop estimates of measurement system uncertainty, which were typically lower than the manufacturer’s stated specifications, enabling the identification of subtle variability in water chemistry that may have otherwise been missed.

Publication Year 2018
Title A novel high-frequency groundwater quality monitoring system
DOI 10.1007/s10661-018-6853-6
Authors John Franco Saraceno, Justin T. Kulongoski, Timothy M. Mathany
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Monitoring and Assessment
Index ID 70200627
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center