White paper on Willowstick technology used for mapping and modeling groundwater systems


Courtesy of Willowstick Technologies LLC

1.0 Introduction

Willowstick Technology (the “Technology”) delineates and characterizes subsurface aqueous systems in complex hydrogeologic settings. It has consistently proven valuable in: 1) the diagnosis of seepage through earthen dams and levees; 2) characterizing groundwater infiltration into surface and subsurface mines; 3) tracking pollution plumes influenced by groundwater transport; 4) optimizing well placement for production and/or monitoring purposes; 5) identifying and mapping geothermal production zones; 6) delineating salt and fresh water reaction fronts; and 7) optimizing water flood activities in oil and gas recovery operations as well as other in-situ solution mining processes.

The Technology has clearly demonstrated that a better understanding of groundwater conditions can significantly reduce costs, increase revenues, and improve safety factors for those dealing with groundwater-related issues. In the case of a mine, for example, groundwater control may be a key to long-term sustainability of productive and safe mine operations. In the case of dams, being able to understand the location of seepage flow paths allows for cost-effective remediation to prevent dam failure and mitigate danger to lives and property.

Historically the most rigorous methods of characterizing and delineating subsurface features have been by direct observation or measurement of subsurface properties. Generally, this involves drilling observation wells. Although this approach can be effective, it becomes increasingly costprohibitive and impractical beyond a certain extent—yielding only a limited set of data from which broad interpolations and extrapolations must be made. Too often critical decisions are based on interpolations that fail to depict complex and acute changes that occur in the subsurface. To mitigate the risk factors involved in making difficult groundwater related decisions, Willowstick developed the Technology to quickly and efficiently locate preferential groundwater flow paths without being intrusive or harming the environment. The Technology significantly reduces both time and expense associated with seepage diagnosis or general groundwater characterization, especially when used in conjunction with monitoring well data, and other hydrogeologic information.

The Technology measures the magnetic field produced by the distribution of electric current to track patterns that help characterize preferential groundwater flow. It differs in many ways from traditional resistivity and other electromagnetic (EM) methods. First, it capitalizes on the fact that water content is a dominant factor in enhancing the subsurface electrical conductivity of soil and rock. Second, by directly energizing a conductive groundwater medium with strategic electrode placement, the electric field can more effectively “illuminate” the target of interest with less interference from overlying layers.

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