Researchers in Nebraska are mapping underground valleys to predict groundwater flow.
The scientists are using a helicopter to fly an electromagnetic device that surveys hundreds of feet below the ground.
Jesse Korus, assistant professor in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s School of Natural Resources, says the mining industry has used this method for years.
“It’s really the first demonstration of this technique in mapping buried valleys and these types of deposits,” Korus tells Nebraska Radio Network. “Certainly in Nebraska, we are pushing the boundaries of this type of research.”
Korus says the underground images show where sediments from glaciers were deposited.
“Some of the buried valleys are filled with things like silt and clay. Those materials don’t yield water very readily and especially not to irrigation wells,” he says. “The nature of the sedimentary fill of the valley is directly related to the availability of groundwater and to its long-term sustainability.”
This method of surveying is a less expensive way to cover great distances, but it still uses existing well information to fine tune the data.
Ultimately, the information will help protect water supplies.
“Knowing something about how [the valleys] are connected in the subsurface allows resource managers to devise management plans based on the best available science, the best available understanding of how to protect certain areas and devise local management plans based on the local condition,” Korus says.
The team from the Nebraska Geological Survey continues to get new data from flight surveys done this summer.
Korus expects new discoveries will be made once the information is analyzed.