INTERVIEW with Jim Raab, Geology Program Supervisor, Division of Water
What do you do to support sustainable development in Ohio?
I supervise a staff of geologists that provide information about ground water in Ohio. Water-bearing formations called aquifers provide water for households, municipalities, farms and industries throughout the state. Over 40 percent of Ohio’s households depend on ground water from municipal water supplies or individual domestic wells.
My staff and I assist drillers, developers and the general public in understanding how much ground water can be withdrawn from specific formations without adversely impacting other ground water users. We use various software programs to make ground water data accessible to the public on our website.
How do you know where useable ground water is located?
The Division of Water has been collecting water well records since 1947 and we have approximately 775,000 records of water wells throughout Ohio in our database. Well log information can be used to indicate how deep new wells must be drilled and to assist in the repair of existing wells. We receive a few hundred calls every month from drillers and the public requesting ground water information that I can provide through a computer search.
The Division of Water has also conducted pumping tests on over 150 wells throughout Ohio and collected consultant reports that characterize the water-bearing properties of Ohio’s aquifers. Using these data and well-records data we have produced ground water resources maps. These county-wide maps include information such as well yield in gallons per minute, well depth, aquifer type and chemical properties of the ground water such as iron content and total hardness. These maps can help local officials plan for future water supply needs.
Do you also evaluate the vulnerability of aquifers to pollution?
Yes, we are currently producing county-wide ground water pollution potential reports with maps. Data about hydrogeologic factors that influence ground water movement, such as topography, soil media, and hydrologic conductivity, are used to develop an index of relative vulnerability of aquifers in a county.
This index helps local officials and planners evaluate the potential for contamination of specific aquifers from sources of pollution such as landfills, industrial waste sites, agricultural and non-point sources of pollution. In the photo I’m standing beside a pollution potential map: the light green areas are more vulnerable to contamination than the blue areas.
What is most challenging about your job?
It can be challenging to educate the public about how much water can be withdrawn from an area, especially when this information conflicts with developmental demands for water. So we try to motivate individuals and local communities to plan their ground water usage to avoid ground water use conflicts in the future.