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Groundwater Study Conducted on Davidson's Lake Campus


December 7, 2000
Contact: Bill Giduz 704/894-2244 or bigiduz@davidson.edu

by Alexandra Obregon '00

Lake campus drilling
Drilling at the lake campus began in early fall.

Hydrogeologists from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) have begun a study of groundwater quality in the Lake Norman area by drilling monitoring wells at Davidson College's Lake Campus.

Groundwater is the water beneath the earth's surface between saturated soil and bedrock which feeds natural springs and supplies home wells. The researchers will study how it moves, how it interacts with the water in Lake Norman, and how it is affected by land use. The project is part of an ongoing study by the two agencies to characterize the groundwater of the Piedmont and Mountain regions of North Carolina.

The DENR first began investigating the site two years ago at the request of nearby residents whose wells were going dry. Janet Aardema, a biology major in Davidson's Class of 1999, did some preliminary research last year. As the project developed, DENR received funding from the USGS for four new research positions to study groundwater quality in western North Carolina, and selected the Davidson Lake Campus on Langtree Road as one of eight proposed research stations in the project.

The sites were selected to be representative of the region's geology, hydrology and land use, and to provide the most transferable information. Other sites include a state research area in Bent Creek, a Piedmont agricultural research station in Reedsville, N.C., and a research station on the N.C. State University campus.

"The college has been very cooperative, and that made this particular Lake Norman site more attractive," said Matt Heller, project supervisor with the groundwater section of DENR.

Lake campus drilling
Drilling machines pulverize the rock and pull it up to clear the way for the new well.

According to the USGS, a regional characterization of land use, ground-water quality, recharge/discharge relations, soils and hydrogeologic characterizations, and ground-water flow is necessary to manage the resources appropriately. Research results will be used for land use planning, to determine better placement of water supply wells, and in efforts to clean up contaminated water.

The research team from DENR has been on site at the lake campus since the end of August, and drilling will continue until January. When the drilling is complete, there will be eighteen permanent wells at the lake campus--six bedrock wells about 400 feet deep, and twelve shallow wells between twenty and fifty feet deep. Geophysical and hydrological studies of those wells will continue for the next several years.

USGS is a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Interior and a world leader in the natural sciences. It provides reliable scientific information to describe and understand the earth, minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters, manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources, and enhance and protect our quality of life.

The DENR is the lead stewardship agency for the preservation and protection of North Carolina's natural resources. The organization administers regulatory programs designed to protect air quality, water quality, and public health. The goal of the Water Quality Section is to maintain or restore and improve an aquatic environment able to protect the existing or best intended uses of North Carolina's surface waters, and to ensure compliance with state and federal water quality standards. Those uses include drinking water, recreational activities, agricultural and other purposes, and the protection and maintenance of aquatic life.

Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,600 students. Since its establishment in 1837, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country by "U.S. News and World Report" magazine.

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