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Chapter III
Data Collection

The primary objective of this project was to collect locational data for each groundwater source that had not been located within the USEPA's Safe Drinking Water Program Database. After examining all alternatives for gathering this data, it was determined that Global Positioning System (GPS) technology would be applied on-site for each source, following recommendations made in USEPA's Locational Data Policy for achieving location accuracy goals (USEPA 1992a).

In order to effectively use GPS, certain tasks had to be completed. These included: querying the existing USEPA Database to generate a list of all um-napped groundwater sources with associated contact information, preplanning data collection, in-field lat/long data collection, post-processing of location data, and finally transferring the data from GPS to an acceptable database format.

GPS is a radio based satellite system developed by the Department of Defense for accurately locating positional data (Kennedy, 1996). This system has four major components: 24 orbiting satellites, data collection receivers, base station receivers, and the user. Recent advances in this technology and decreases in price have allowed for GPS to reach a wider audience of users. The accuracy, ease of use, efficiency, and GIS compatibility of GPS technology was fundamental to this project.

The accuracy of GPS for locating real world features is the single biggest reason many natural resource managers have employed this technology. There are a variety of factors that influence the accuracy of the System: type of equipment, data collection methodologies and settings, inherit GPS errors, post-processing techniques, and data exchange procedures. The type of receiver used for collecting data however, directly influences all the other factors. There are three basic grades of receivers; recreational, mapping, and surveying. Accuracy and cost increase when going from the recreational grade receiver to the surveying grade. Additionally, the type of procedures available to the user also changes as receiver upgrading occurs.

For this project, a Trimble Pro XL receiver was used in gathering locational data for each PWS groundwater source. This is a eight channel, mapping grade receiver that maintains accuracy standards of approximately one meter after applying post-processing techniques. This receiver is also accompanied by a data logger that allows for ease in attributing and describing features.

The remainder of this chapter briefly describes the methodologies employed in using GPS, specifically Trimble GPS products, throughout the project. However, prior to traveling to data collection sites, a number of pre-planning tasks had to be accomplished relating not only to GPS but also to establishing a tentative schedule. The pre-planning steps allowed for the data to be collected as accurately and efficiently as possible.

The initial phase of this project involved first querying the system and source tables in order to create a list of collection sites. It was necessary to determine which systems were still active, and of these systems, which had groundwater sources that had not yet been located. Once this was completed, a list was created for each county containing contact, system, and well information necessary to find the source.

This phase was two-fold: 1) contacting owners/managers to obtain permission and help in locating the source, and 2) establishing standards for certain critical settings within the receiver. Initially field personnel would contact PWS system owners/managers prior to going to the site. This quickly became economically unfeasible due to the number of calls necessary to contact people. The most efficient way proved to be direct communication with owners/operators onsite. Usually the Chamber of Commerce for each city became a valuable asset since they could direct personnel to the general locations.

Certain critical settings insured that the data would be collected as accurately as possible. All of the manufacturer's recommended settings were followed in configuring the receiver, including the number of positions collected for each source, the logging interval of the positions, the number of satellites available, and the Position Dilution of Precision (PDOP). All of these are fairly self-explanatory except for PDOP which is a measurement of the number and geometry of the satellites being used for data collection. Finally, a data dictionary was created, requiring the user to input the unique identifiers for each source (i.e. system identification number, source identification number, and groundwater source (spring or well)). AR pre-planning activities were completed prior to leaving the office for data collection.

Each groundwater source required that 30 positions be logged at one second intervals. Additionally at no time could the Precision Dilution of Position (PDOP) fall above six. All positions were collected using the 3-D setting with no less than four satellites being used. Each day, all collected data were downloaded to a laptop PC for safety and storage.

Once the data had been downloaded, project accuracy requirements made it necessary to post-process or differentially correct the data. GPS points collected without applying this process can have worst case accuracy errors of 100 meters. However, data that has been differentially corrected usually falls within one to two meters of its true location (specific for Trimble Pro XL receiver). In order to differentially correct GPS data collected in the field, the user must have access to base station GPS data and post-processing software.

For this project all base station data were obtained from the Casper BLM/UW station. A base station is an eight to twelve channel GPS receiver placed on a known location which produces correction files that can be applied to any data collected within a 300 mile radius of the station. Correction files can be downloaded via a modem and use of a bulletin board. Through the use of differential correction software these files can be applied to field data. Trimble's PFINDER software with the MCORR400 algorithm was applied for all collected data. Finally, all corrected positions were averaged to produce a single latitude and longitude for each groundwater source.

The final step in data collection is to transfer all the groundwater source locations back to the original table to be included with all PWS sources. This was accomplished through the use of PFINDER's export command and then combining all database tables to form a single table relating only to the locations collected by WWRC. This table was then related to the original source table allowing for all collected latitudes and longitudes to be placed respectively within the table.

From USEPA's Safe Water Drinking Act Program Database source table 511 active groundwater sources were lacking latitude and longitude descriptors. Of these, 419 were located by this project with an additional 59 new sources added to the table. These additions to the database were operational or partially completed wells not listed within USEPA's database and, according to the PWS contact, were or going to be part of that system.

There were a number of different reasons why 92 of the 511 listed sources were not located, however the biggest factor was dictated by the time and travel schedule during the data collection phase of the project. Every county throughout Wyoming except Campbell County was visited by a VVWRC employee. Campbell County was excluded due to the number of mining PWSs (mines require safety training be completed before data can be collected within the permit area) and preexisting data in the Gillette area which was collected by the State Engineer's Office. This county contributed to nearly half of the groundwater sources that currently lack locations and should be the focus of future data collection efforts.

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