Groundwater mapping helicopter to make low-level flights over areas surrounding Fresno

SkyTEM Airborne Electromagnetic System in flight (from https://skytem.com)

The following information was released by Aqua Geo Frameworks, LLC on Monday, November 18, 2020.

Beginning approximately November 23, 2020 residents of the areas surrounding west and south of Fresno – including the communities of Fowler, Kingsburg, Lemon Cove, Orange Cove, Orosi, Parlier, Piedra, Reedley, Sanger, Selma, Woodlake – may see a low-flying helicopter towing a large hexagonal frame. This unique equipment is part of a project to further map groundwater aquifers and subsurface geology in the area.

Stanford University, working with Aqua Geo Frameworks LLC, have planned the flight to improve our understanding of the area’s groundwater resources, in particular the way in which snowmelt from the Sierras recharges the aquifers in the Central Valley. Stanford’s study is being funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (grant number GBMF6189).

Groundwater is an important source of water in California and improving our knowledge of the groundwater system will help local agencies determine how best to protect our existing groundwater supplies.

This technique has been used in California before and has been shown to provide useful information that can be used to better manage natural resources.

Scientific equipment hangs about 100 feet below the helicopter in a ’spider web’ array and is designed to map geologic structures and groundwater resources down to approximately 900 feet below the land surface. The helicopter will be flown by pilots who are specially trained for low-level flying and their flight path is designed to get the best available underground data. The helicopters are flown by Sinton Helicopters out of Paso Robles.

Since data can only be collected over open spaces, no data collection will occur over residential areas, livestock feeding operations, or other buildings. After the flights, Stanford University will use the data to develop an improved understanding of recharge in the area. An update on their work will be available at https://gemcenter.stanford.edu/research-projects.

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