Well Monitoring Workshop Report

David Noren displayinging sample well monitoring trends

David demonstrates monitoring technique at the Grange wellhead

Every Bennett Valley resident depends on a well! Wells are vitally necessary, and understanding how to measure the precious water under our feet is important to sustaining our access to groundwater.

We had a great turnout of well owners on April 29, keen to learn the basics of well monitoring. David Noren, an environmental consultant and manager of environmental services at EBA Engineering, has graciously agreed to assist the Bennett Valley Community in setting up a monitoring program here. David conducts a very successful long-term monitoring project for Sebastopol, and his enthusiasm and expert advice is much appreciated.


Over 30 Bennett Vallians gathered at the Grange Hall for the demonstration. After introductions, organizer Chris Gralapp described the loss of her well in 2010, and the subsequent tribulations of having a well re-drilled down to nearly 1000 feet. Four other homes in her neighborhood of ten properties had similar well issues, highlighting the vagaries of the Bennett Valley water table.


David displayed maps and charts supporting the complexities of water availability in Sonoma County in general, and in his area of west county in particular.  This data shows that some well levels are trending upward over time while some are clearly trending down. Many areas are unpredictable, so seeing the data spread out over the years is important to give a sense of the health of our aquifers to well owners and water managers.


The recently mandated Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires all California counties to form local agencies and develop sustainability plans, in the face changing (and, in some cases, depleting) water supplies. We are all ‘dipping our straws into the same milkshake’, so collecting and accurately tracking the groundwater levels twice each year will give us a clearer picture of the health of our aquifer.  


Operating from the Grange’s well head, David demonstrated several of the devices he uses to measure wells. The one most in favor is a tape device, a spooled insulated wire with a sensor at the tip. The spool is unwound into the well, and when the sensor encounters the static water level it signals with a beep, and the depth is recorded from the numbered tape. The Grange’s static water level was discovered to be good, at about 36 feet below surface. Lively discussion ensued, cogent questions from the group were discussed, and neighbors compared experiences.


A Well Monitoring Working Group is forming, under the auspices of the BVCA and the Grange, to train a small team of members as well monitors. The ultimate goal is to identify 20 – 25 wells around the valley to measure twice per year. The resulting data will be plotted on a spreadsheet, to identify static water level trends for the benefit of homeowners, and to share with Sonoma Water to help fill the ‘data-gap’ that exists for our area. The last comprehensive water survey was published using data from 1980—and there have been a lot of changes in BV since then, not only in population increase, but also in the climate change that is affecting us all.

Before the monitoring can begin, we need to acquire the equipment to do the work. To that end, BVCA will conduct a limited capital campaign to raise the approximately $1200 or so for the Water Level Meter. The monitoring team will be local volunteers whom David will train.  

Please donate to the Well Monitoring Equipment Fund. Any amount is welcome.


Also, we will be seeking willing well-owners to opt-in to have their wells measured. Watch this space for more information as the project progresses!