Willowstick surveys are applicable and affordable on small projects


Courtesy of Willowstick Technologies LLC

Over the course of Willowstick's eight-year history, we have had the opportunity to work with many prominent clients on large, complex projects. As a result of this, many potential clients have had the perception that Willowstick is 'expensive' and not suitable for smaller, less complex projects. While it is generally true that Willowstick's rates might not cost the same as more traditional electrical based geophysical technologies such as Electrical Resistivity (ER), the technology is frequently applied to small and less sophisticated projects with surveys starting as low as $20,000 USD. Recent innovations have put the technology within reach for smaller projects including small dams and environmental and mining sites.

To illustrate this point, let's consider a few recent projects conducted by Willowstick in the United Kingdom through its European partner, Atkins Global. One project was an earthen embankment structure in Wales. The dam was 676 feet wide - a small dam that was suspected of having seepage issues that could compromise the dam's integrity. Willowstick arrived on site and performed the project, complete with 3D modeling (to gauge the depth of flow paths) for less than half the cost of what it would have cost just a few years ago, in this case less than $35,000 USD.

Surveys do not need to encompass the entirety of a site either. One of our clients, a large utility company, had a dam that was experiencing seepage issues in the left abutment. There was no evidence of seepage on the other side of dam. The client requested that Willowstick confine its survey area to the immediate left abutment area. The survey comprised of one electrode configuration and an area of about 500 feet long by 50 feet wide. The total cost was under $20,000 USD.

Sometimes what the client needs to know is to simply obtain the location of preferential flow paths. For them understanding the depth of the flow paths may not be particularly [helpful or useful. An example of this might be on a small dam or a leaking evaporative pond. In these situations just knowing the location of the leak is sufficient. In such cases, pricing can be done to reflect the effort to only build 2D maps and forego the additional costs of modeling the data to obtain depth. In such a pricing scenario, the client can often see price reductions of more than 20%.

Also, the Willowstick instrument is very simple and easy to operate. Under normal conditions, we will send two to three crewmembers to a site in order to complete the fieldwork. This lowers our costs and allows us to pass the savings along to our clients while also allowing them to gain a better understanding of the Willowstick technique. This scenario can often result in significant price reductions again as much as 20%.

Willowstick has entered into pricing agreements as well where clients have contracted for a number of projects at one time. Just recently, Willowstick completed a package of 12 dams throughout the United Kingdom. Such volume allowed the company to spread out fixed costs among all the projects resulting in much lower overall costs per project.

There are basically three drivers that influence the cost of Willowstick surveys. The first is the size of the survey area. Larger survey areas require more measurement stations and they take longer to survey. Second is the number of electrode configurations. Every electrode configuration requires the collection of data as well as data reduction, interpretation and modeling, which translates to significantly more time and therefore greater cost. Third, is the data density of the survey grid. A tighter survey grid generally results in better data resolution, but with a tighter grid comes more time in the field (more measurements required). All three of these factors will influence the cost of a Willowstick survey. Therefore, small and uncomplicated projects that can be done quickly with one electrode configuration can be done at lower price points.

The application of Willwostick's technology is wide and varied. There are many different types of groundwater problems that Willowstick can help with, including many small projects where finding groundwater preferential flow is critical to the project's success. As has been documented in this article, even on small projects, Willowstick's technology can be applied in a cost effective manner.

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