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Harvard University Study Uses Seismic Noise to Track Water Levels in Underground Aquifers

  • U.S.A., August 23, 2018: As per a recent study published in Geophysical Research letters, seismic noises can be measure the size and the water levels in underground aquifers. The paper has been written by Harvard University student, Tim Clements who did a research in California on the same. The technique could even be used to track whether and how aquifers rebound following precipitation, and understand geological changes that might occur as water is pumped out.

    Using those measurements, researchers were able to measure the water depth of the San Gabriel Valley aquifer, located just outside Los Angeles, to within a centimeter. Efforts to measure the size of the aquifer were limited by the existing seismic network, Clements said, and so were accurate only to about a kilometer.

    While the study wasn't the first to hit upon the idea of using seismic noise to study groundwater, Assistant Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University, Marine Denolle said earlier efforts were hampered because they relied on a signal that was relatively weak in comparison to environmental factors like temperature and pressure.

    The system could also be a useful tool for anyone involved in water resource management, Clements said, because it can give them a moment-to-moment view of precisely what is happening in an underground aquifer.

    "This could be used for water management," Clements said. "In this study, we looked at about 17 years of data, from 2000 to 2017, but going forward this could be used in a water management application, so you could get a picture of what's happening with the aquifer on a daily basis."

    Aside from providing groundwater measurements, the technique can also be used to monitor the health of an aquifer over time.