case studies

Water Level Survey



Shelby County Public Works and Economic Development Growth Engine


Water Level Survey

Mapping water levels in the shallow aquifer has helped us identify where water of poorer quality is bypassing the protective clay layer that overlies our primary drinking water aquifer. Our drinking water comes from the deeper Memphis aquifer and is around 2000-3000 years old. But younger water (<50 years old) is leaking downward through naturally occurring breaches in the intervening clay layer (aquitard). This leakage from the shallow aquifer shows up as depressions in the water table as very little pumping occurs within the shallow aquifer. The shallow aquifer contains contaminants from modern day sources that are a cause for concern for the Memphis aquifer.


As a sustainable community, we need to protect our valuable water supply for future generations.

The research by CAESER provides us with the scientific data needed to help accomplish that goal.

– Tom Needham, Director, Shelby County Public Works


In October 2015, CAESER conducted the third water level survey of the shallow aquifer in Shelby County (previous surveys were conducted in 1988 and 2005) in conjunction with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) water level survey of the Memphis and Fort Pillow aquifers. Water levels from over 200 locations in Shelby County were collected within a two-month window which represented the area’s dry season (or expected low water levels). The observation sites included wells and surface water elevation measurements at bridge crossings.

Water levels were recorded in the field using ESRI’s® Collector for ArcGIS which synced daily to a server at CAESER. The study results from the 2015 water level survey can be obtained through a request to CAESER.