Caving Narrative 1989 - July 19 & November 18

Earl Greene, Bob Kobza, Darren Ressler, Bill Swift, Dick Willis (July 19); Tammy Jebb, Tim Meikle, Darren Ressler (November 18)

Duration of Trip:
10 and 9 hours

New Cave Surveyed:

These two trips to the Lakes area were concerned with the continued monitoring of the water levels. On the July 19 trip Earl Greene of the US Geological Survey was along to "pull" data from the computer data logger unit that has been installed at Windy City Lake.

These trips with Earl are always fun. Batteries need to be replaced, so-haul batteries down, haul batteries out, up and down, back and forth, up chimney climbs, through the crawlways. Carrying an extra, heavy pack turns the Lakes trip into something resembling good exercise.

Our first look at Calcite Lake was something of a shock. It was very obviously down from where it had been in January-at least a half-foot. The subsequent check of the computer monitor at Windy City Lake confirmed a drop of 6 inches. A look at the data that had been gathered so far indicated that the water level was dropping exponentially and not at a steady rate.

On the return trip in November we visually checked the water level. Again, a drop of 4 to 5 inches since July was evident. This dramatic water loss (1 foot in 1 year) from the Lakes describes an incredible loss of groundwater if, as we believe, the Lakes represents the local (Madison aquifer) water table.

Hopefully, as the project continued in the years ahead answers to our questions will emerge. Why is the water level dropping? Does this accurately represent a drawing down of the entire aquifer? What, if any, are the connections to local drought cycles? How much of the water loss is due to overuse of the aquifer?

As groundwater resources are diminished throughout the Western states, the answers suggested here may help find solutions to water loss problems elsewhere. In the meanwhile, water conservation and a healthy, renewed respect for water as an irreplaceable resource is needed. Next time we take a drink of clear, clean water, we need to remember how precious and amazing a thing it really is.

Report by: Darren Ressler

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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