In the 1990s, the leaders of Richfield, Wisconsin, considered the real possibility of a bleak future: Running out of water.
The village partnered with a local university professor and doctoral students to take measurements of their water levels, consider projected growth and create models of the demands on their natural resources.
The good news is they had time to change their course and create growth that was sustainable. So they took action and set the density of lot sizes, reserved undeveloped acres of land and regulated water usage.
The bad news was that it took a lot of time and energy to periodically check water levels to ensure they didn’t deviate from the sustainable path. Monitoring meant hiring a former professor to travel to at least 30 stations around the village a few times a year.
That’s where Wellntell technology arrived. Now by monitoring real-time data with Wellntel, the village of Richfield can see the health of their current levels as well as the long-term viability of their community of 12,000 people.
“We were only looking at snapshots in time 3-4 times a year, which doesn’t tell the full story in your water table,” said Richfield Village Administrator Jim Healy. “Now we have two readings a day every day with Wellntel.”
The Wellntel technology and data has made it much easier to keep the finger on the water pulse of the village.
“We don’t have to traipse 36 miles around in perpetuity while having more accurate and more data points with Wellntel,” Healy said. “That was appealing so we can see in real time what effect our aquifers are having.”
Building business and community
Situated along picturesque hills that were carved by glaciers, Richfield relies on well water for its residents, since creating municipal waters and sewers would be a huge and expensive undertaking. That’s why it’s vital to continually monitor water levels and plan for sustainable growth, which the village is able to do with Wellntel.
“Water doesn’t naturally roll uphill so we’ve had to rely on well water,” Healy said. “It would drastically change our identity if we have to create pumping systems. So this is a way we’ve been able to grow and prosper in a mindful way while conserving our most precious resource –– water.”
Projecting to the future, Richfield plans to be fully built out at about 20,000 residents. At that level, the data from Wellntel and their projections show that their water resources will be sustainable.
“We can say with 97% confidence that we can continue to develop at this rate that we will not have water issues,” Healy said.
Wellntel data also helps Healy share insight for developers who want to see the health of the resources, and see the viability of building on three-acre lots.
“Obviously the developers want to maximize the ROI of their real estate,” Healy said. “You can show them that the Village of Richfield has a high quality of life.”
For instance, Wellntel shows a more complete picture of the long-term trends rather than seeing the effect of a short-term lack of rain.
“If you showed this information to the residents, it looks like we’re in dire straits,” Healy said. “If you annualize and level everything out it’s not so bad. It gives you an informed view. Long term we’ve learned that our water levels have risen 6 feet since we’ve been monitoring. That’s been the long term cumulative impact.”
The real-time data also shows that a significant rainfall can have an immediate effect.
“That recharge really helps,” Healy said. “We have sand and gravel soil so it goes right back into the aquifer.”
Removing the pain points
Richfield has now been partnering with Wellntel going on four years, and it’s removed the pain points of getting accessible water data.
“The biggest pain point was the logistics,” Healy said. “Having to go out to a property owner’s house while they’re at the home, then you’re opening up the well, you’re taking a reading, dumping in tablets, and closing it back up.”
Today, Healy has many other tasks to attend to as a busy administrator who doesn’t have time to take a lot of water readings or coordinate schedules for someone else to do it for him.
Fortunately, all he has to do is look at the dashboard of data and know where his village stands.
“Logistically, Wellntel has made things a lot easier,” he said.