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Low-flying helicopters measuring Paso Basin groundwater

If you see a helicopter flying low to the ground in North San Luis Obispo County, do not be alarmed. It’s all part of a new pilot study conducted by Stanford University mapping the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin.

The study will help provide the county with a more accurate picture of the Groundwater Basin. The information will lead to making better decisions about managing water resources in the future.

Starting in October, the County will join two other California counties in the pilot study through Stanford University in partnership with California Department of Water Resources and Denmark. The innovative technology will help the agencies comply with California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

The information gained from the study would typically take the County years to figure out, but with the new technology, it will only take them a few days.

The low-flying helicopter will have a large hexagonal frame that looks somewhat like a hoop mounted with several other measuring devices and flown back-and-forth at approximately 100 feet above the ground. The equipment bounces a week electromagnetic signal beneath the ground surface and sends measurements back to receivers on the frame. The helicopter flies at about 50-miles-per-hour over a 500-mile flight path.

The County is planning on using the data to develop a more thorough understanding of the local groundwater system.

The helicopter could scare people and livestock as it flies in and out of the Paso Robles Municipal Airport to refuel.

The electromagnetic signal is very weak and does not pose any health risk. Experienced pilots trained for low-level flying will operate the helicopter and follow all Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

For more information visit the County’s website on the Paso Basin.

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