“Wellntel allows us to track groundwater levels all across the state and fill in gaps that exist in the federal monitoring network”Stacy Timmons – Associate Director of Hydrogeology Programs for the New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources
Historically, the tiny New Mexico town of Willard has needed only a single well to supply water to its small population of 242 people.
But in recent years, the residents have kept close watch on groundwater and noticed an alarming trend – the level in their well keeps going down.
The town is one of several municipalities spread out throughout New Mexico that receive updates on groundwater trends thanks to sensors from Wellntel in partnership with the state’s Aquifer Mapping Program.
“Having that data is allowing them to make better decisions –– but in a larger sense it’s an awakening for them,” said Stacy Timmons, Associate Director of Hydrogeology Programs for the New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources.
In a years-long relationship with the New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources (where Timmons leads Hydrogeology Programs) Wellntel provides everything that is necessary to collect water information, analyze the information and share conclusions with citizens. Wellntel’s sensor, telemetry, and data-management and analytical tools help Timmon’s team to be laser focused on rapid, simple deployments, the highest data quality and greatest quantity and process efficiency leading to action.
For example, as a result of knowing the facts about water, residents have been able to take ownership for the long-term health of their community, making the collective decision not to sell water to a local farm, which could have devastated their water supply. This was not a decision made lightly in a town where 80% of the population lives below the poverty line.
This area of New Mexico is reliant on the Estancia Basin watershed, and Timmons refers to it as the “canary” basin. If water runs out there, it will signal larger problems for the whole region.
“There will be a whole lot of changes and already there are farms that have gone fallow,” she said. “Those are the stories you don’t even hear about.”
Timmons commends towns like Willard who are opening their eyes to the realities of water conservation. For more areas to do that, there needs to be data and understanding of what’s going on below ground with science and reporting conducted on a scale not possible before.
That’s where Wellntel comes in.
In collaboration with Wellntel CTO and co-founder Nick Hayes, Timmons started working on an statewide Aquifer Mapping Program to illuminate water risk (and opportunity) where it was simply invisible before.
“Wellntel allows us to track groundwater levels all across the state and fill in gaps that exist in the federal monitoring network,” Timmons said. “We saw the robustness of the data with Wellntel.”
Timmons has been tracking overall groundwater decline. By using high-resolution time-series data, she can also pick up seasonal, local and weather-related nuances that would be missed with more traditional annual measurements.
“It’s been helpful to have that high resolution look at different places around the state,” Timmons said.
It’s especially important to continually monitor water supply in an arid region like New Mexico, because the reality of a town completely losing its single source of water is real. In 2013, the New Mexico town of Magdalena completely ran out of water. Twenty-four hours later, all the village taps were turned off.
For Magdalena, there was little to no warning of the impending water shut-off. Many residents had to leave town just to find hydration.
But with regular water monitoring, towns can see and manage their risk. Timmons and her team are committed to providing this data as far and wide as necessary, with the help of Wellntel.
“We’re just trying to cover as much ground in this enormous state as we can with data,” she said.
Individual choices and collective action
Protecting the water supply will take both individual awareness, and actions by groups who all understand the situation.
In that sense, Wellntell can help with both public and private monitoring, including providing sensors for residential wells. Timmons cites one resident who constantly monitors the water levels on his ranch.
“He’s a huge advocate for having Wellntel,” Timmons said. “Because he’s paying attention to the information he’s able to be more proactive.”
Ultimately, changing behavior, policy and action is what is needed to preserve towns in places like New Mexico. And Timmons sees that starting with the kind of data provided by Wellntel.
“It requires awareness first and then action to conserve these natural resources,” she said. “That’s how we are going to make this more sustainable going forward.”