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Ground Water Perspective

hydro at workHere at the well site, where we are collecting valid data to serve you better, we have time to think. Then we write it down for your benefit. Check here on occasion to see what we here at Ground Water Science have to say about various things; wells, ground water, the world... from that underground point of view. We also invite you to take a look at our Ground Water Science page on Facebook where we post news, links, and comments of interest, and attempt to engage in dialog.

The drive to include wellfield systems in overall utility water supply asset management has been a welcome development, logical, long overdue, and can be challenging.

The processes of asset management (including the preventive maintenance component) of “top-side” systems of water utilities is rather mature, based in design, material selection and other application of corrosion engineering (inspection, coatings, cathodic protection, etc.). Water treatment plant components are designed to be accessible and repairable/renewable, and increasingly equipped with in-line sensory systems. Water line installations are corrosion-resistant and lifespans and stresses well-known. Water tower maintenance is likewise a mature discipline. Costing and amortization of such systems is well-known.

Much of the above for the “top-side” systems is likewise true for wells and their associated systems (well pumps, controls, power systems, and the raw-water connection system). However, wellfields are often viewed as mysterious or “a different animal” compared to pressure and distribution systems.

Three features set wellfields apart:

  • Relative difficulty in inspection
  • Relatively poor accessibility for service, requiring specialized procedures
  • Long and close interface with an uncontrolled environment that is happy to alter the materials and hydraulics of wells and their pumps, piping, valves, controls and instruments.

Combined with typical water systems operations and management unfamiliarity with wells and hydrogeology, asset management of wellfields may seem daunting, and best left to specialists with special techniques.

A lack of familiarity with wells and the hydrogeologic environment may lead to being tempted by “special techniques” or “silver bullets”

While innovation is always to be encouraged, the ground water exploration and supply field has long been an attractive one for selling “special techniques” (going back to dowsing or water-witching) because of the “mystery” of ground-water supply.

The special conditions of wells (difficult to inspect and access, intimate with the “wild”, and frustrating to maintain sometimes) may make “special techniques” such as specialized maintenance treatments, attractive when sold as an all-purpose cure.

If attracted to “special techniques”: Insist on real-world data histories. Does it become less effective over time? What does it really cost over the years? How do you know it works? Only one vendor?

In reality – the strategies for maintaining above-ground assets is true for wells: Predict, monitor, inspect, treat at intervals, budget – these techniques work. It is rational and works on your budget.

We evaluate your situation, recommend immediate steps, and teach how to manage your wellfield in the long run, just like you manage your above-ground system – without “magic”.

Recommended reading:

Our selection of information resources.

Our products and services (references, well testing, and consulting)

Contact us.

Wow! It's been that long? It just occurred to us that our web site is at least 15 years old. If you are old enough to be an adult that long ago, you may remember that was -- if not the Paleozoic -- then the Stone Age of web sites. But we've been here since then.

The late 1990s was a time of change in this practice. Prior to 1996, partner Stuart Smith was consulting as a sole proprietor and partner Allen Comeskey was in previous professional employment. Smith-Comeskey Ground Water Science LLC was formed in this period by the partners, and work accelerated in this relatively prosperous period in the economy.

old GWS banner ad

That World Wide Web thing was also spreading into the interior of the country and off university and government campuses. Companies were forming web sites. By mid-decade, the Lima, Ohio-based internet service, WCOIL, was offering dial-up internet service and web site hosting for businesses and individuals, and it served Ada, Ohio, our headquarters through 2000. About late 1997 (we’ve lost track), with the help of WCOIL’s Jeff Oestreich, we put up a web site. And remarkably enough, in the same year, it attracted a large government customer. “Can you really do what you say you can do here?” the customer asked. “Of course!” we reply and a long relationship was born.

If you have written code manually, early web site development was something like that. Web sites were written in HTML language, and before there were true WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) HTML editors such as Microsoft Frontpage (remember that?), a web editor often encoded by hand, entering the HTML commands to make the page look as the writer desired. The initial Ground Water Science site was written in the HotDog HTML editor, but making changes was easier just inserting the codes. As using DOS-based software was still part of the mix, this was no burden. An upgrade in composing ease came in the form of Netscape Composer. Frontpage and the like were really expensive and never became necessary.

From the first, this web site was conceived as both an information resource and a major sales window on the world. The “cool” thing about web sites was that it put you on a more equal footing with larger competitors. As many of those sites were sterile and strictly sales, ours stood out in its throwback helpful information style, which many appreciated.

Communication across generations. Now, the developers and brain trust at Ground Water Science are Boomer-age technogeeks. We read books and are comfortable with dense text. Our younger advisors, including our current (and only ever) webmaster, hated the look. By 2005, we had a new site written on the Joomla platform, with essentially the look you see today. Major upgrades in 2011 improved function. This site keeps the best of the “internet is information for all” throwback features. The platform permits us content editors to load on our quirky content. As we have no bosses or legal department chains around our necks, we try to keep it different from those of our corporate creature colleagues.

Current logo

Anyway, enjoy. Tell us if it is useful. Make suggestions. Call or email if you need anything technical from us. We’re here to make a living.

Our Ground Water Science clientele is largely highly conservative and risk-averse. They like a sure thing and the worst disaster of all is to invest in an asset such as a well and have it turn out nonproductive. This is worse than not trying at all. Such an attitude is 180 degrees different from oil and gas producers, who accept a certain level of risk of failure. In the "oil patch" they do everything they can to mitigate risk (exploration) but sometimes wells are “dry”. The acceptance of risk goes with the fundamental purpose of oil and gas development: to sell product for a profit. The successful of course have done quite well. Sometimes things don’t work out and investors end up wearing barrels, not selling them. A couple of points:

  • First, an established water supplier can make money expanding its market with the right vision and good information
  • Second, got land? Maybe you have water to market. There is much undeveloped ground-water resource in eastern and western Ohio for example.


life in a wellfield

Owning and operatiStu at Rift Valleyng a small business is not always easy in this economy. Especially as we provide services that are not always understood to be essential (but can be) and sometimes thought to be available from anyone (definitely not). We need to keep getting the message out about what we do, and keeping up relentlessly with performance and quality. We have financial obligations ourselves.

But it has its rewards. We, the veterans, spend time on the job site and with every client. So we see the situation first hand and we know our clients' hopes and fears. We see it in their eyes. We also get to travel and contribute extensively to a better world. We don't have to ask the stockholders (we are the stockholders) or the home office in France or whatever to do these activities.


Greeting friends in Tanzania We're planning a visit to explore opportunities and building professional and business relationships

The place:

The United Republic of Tanzania is the largest nation in eastern Africa, approximately twice the size of California, situated between 1o and 12o South on the Indian Ocean. Tanzania is a natural economic hub for east Africa, sharing borders and commercial links with eight countries and two trade communities with a combined population of > 300 million people.

Formed 1961-1964 from the British-administered U.N. mandate territory of Tanganyika (former German colonies on the mainland) and coastal Arabic-culture Zanzibar, Tanzania has overcome challenging social conditions (over 120 tribes and evenly divided Moslem and Christian populations), maintaining civil peace and forming a strong sense of national unity. It is an island of peace in a tough neighborhood. It is a peaceful and safe place to travel. Tanzania has rich wildlife and scenic resources that make it an exotic tourism destination.  It is the home of Mt. Kilimanjaro (at 5895 m – 19,340 ft – the highest point in Africa), and the big national parks like Ngorongoro Crater, the Serengeti, and Ruaha are accessible and well run.Tanzania map

Tanzania has a lot of challenges – but also a lot of opportunities for American water and wastewater sector companies (see following). Like South Africa or India before it, the pieces are in place for the nation to have an explosion of economic growth: infrastructure is being developed, and new sources of valuable natural resources discovered. It has a population that knows about and wants the basics of life, including safe and abundant water and proper sanitation. The Government of Tanzania is in the midst of an aggressive program to expand agricultural output and to raise the rural standard of living. This is a nation where Americans are well liked and appreciated, particularly as an alternative to other foreign service providers.


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What kind of work do we do? Here is an example:

Ohio Department of Transportation District 1 – Overcoming coliform positive problems

Roadside rest areas operated by District 1 in Hancock County, Ohio were experiencing total coliform positive results in systems supplied by carbonate aquifer wells. Ground Water Science supervised drilling and well construction to remove the wells as a source of problems, and made recommendations to redesign the system to remove compromising components. These latter remain in place, as do the problems, but the wells themselves are coliform-free.

Office Locations

Western Ohio (Main) Office
295 S. Lawn Ave.
Bluffton, OH  45817

Appalachian Plateau Office
22 Edgewater Dr.
Poland, OH  44514

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