10/11 News Story On Aquifer Study With ENWRA

10/11 News Story On Aquifer Study With ENWRA


Here is the story on ENWRA's helicopter flyovers to take an ultrasound of what's below the Earth and the aquifer.


LINCOLN, Neb. -- When people fly in a helicopter, they often see a different perspective of the world. However, technology on one special helicopter is allowing scientists to see much more than that, including a view 900 feet below the ground.

The Nebraska Department of Natural Resources is sponsoring a study that will gather information about Eastern Nebraska's Groundwater. If that's not interesting enough, how that data is collected is quite unique.

The helicopter is equipped with an interesting contraption dangling underneath. Shaped like a large hexagon or a spider web, a large object made of fiber glass takes flight below the helicopter.

"It's got a wire in it and it sends in electromagnetic signal into the earth and it's towed by a helicopter, and we try to keep it about 100 feet off the ground," Hydrogeologist Katie Cameron said. "It'll send that electromagnetic signal in and then we'll get a response back on the receiver on the hook, and there's an on-board computer in the helicopter that will download all this data as we're flying along."

Flying about 50 miles per hour, the technology is able to capture what Cameron called a "cat scan" of the earth, 900 feet below the surface. Geologist and geophysicists use the data to identify aquifers.

"We're just trying to get a really good handle on where those units are, how far down they are [and] how thick they are because you need to know how much water is down there in order to manage the availability of that water for future users, or to know when to allow certain amounts of pumping and usage of that," Cameron said.

The study's goal is to get an overall picture of Eastern Nebraska's geology. In October, the helicopter began flying over Northeast Nebraska. Starting in late March and the beginning of April, it'll fly over Western Douglas County, to David City and south of the Kansas border.

"This technology was for finding mineral deposits, but in the last 10 years they've really started using it for finding aquifer units," Cameron said. "Nebraska's really kind of been at the forefront of that."

The Lower Platte South Natural Resources District and members of the Eastern Nebraska Water Resource Assessment have planned the study's flights. Cameron said by April, they'll have studied a total of 4,800 miles of Nebraska land.